How to Avoid Major Airports and Fly in Jets at Commercial Prices by Flying Semi-private

Everything you need to know about semi-private air travel.

Many travelers are familiar with private jets, but what about flying semi-private? This is a relatively new type of travel that's rapidly growing in popularity. Straddling the line between private jets and commercial flights, semi-private flights provide passengers with a luxurious and convenient service. Here, everything you need to know about semi-private air travel.

Exterior of a JSX plane

Courtesy of JSX

What is a semi-private flight?

Semi-private flights are regularly scheduled flights on small luxury jets that often carry just 15 to 30 people, operating out of private jet terminals known as fixed base operators (FBOs). Their biggest perk is their convenience; because these flights utilize FBOs, passengers are able to skip the hassles commonly found in the traditional airport experience, such as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security scanning.

"Flying semi-private is flying on air carriers that function similarly to larger commercial air carriers, but without the hassle of standing in long lines to check one's bags, standing in long lines to go through airport security, sitting among large crowds of people at the gate while waiting to board one's airplane, finding an overhead bin on the airplane in which to stow one's carry-on bags, and sitting in uncomfortable seats if one is flying in economy class," Dr. Dan Bubb, a professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a former airline pilot, tells T+L.

Inside of a Aero flight

Courtesy of Aero

Unlike traditional private jet charters, when you pay for a specific plane to take you from A to B at your discretion, semi-private flights run on fixed schedules just like major airlines. And, of course, you book one individual seat instead of chartering the whole jet. The onboard ambiance is much more akin to a private jet experience than a commercial one. For instance, seats are spacious, and tickets usually include free alcohol, snacks, and checked baggage.

What carriers provide semi-private flights?

Air carriers that offer semi-private flights include JSX, Tradewind Aviation, Aero, Set Jet, Blade, and Surf Air. Some require monthly memberships in order to book flights on the semi-private public charters, while others are open to all.

Where do semi-private flights fly?

This is where commercial airlines have an advantage — semi-private air carriers have comparatively limited route networks. They typically fly regionally, though some travel across the country, and a few offer flights to Mexico or within the Caribbean. Most routes are either common to business travelers (say, between Los Angeles and San Francisco) or luxury vacationers (think: Los Angeles to Los Cabos, Mexico, or New York City to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts).

How much does flying semi-private cost?

The price of semi-private flights depends on the route and the time of year. Typically the price is comparable to first class on domestic flights, but during peak travel times, you may pay far more. Expect rates for short flights to start around $200 each way and go up to several thousand dollars each way for longer ones.

What are the cons of flying semi-private?

The high prices and limited route networks and schedules are some of the cons for flying semi-private. "If they cancel, some [semi-private air carriers] don't have agreements with larger airlines to rebook you," Bobby Laurie, a former flight attendant, tells T+L. "If you want to connect to a larger airline, you need to get to the regular terminals to do so, since you're at the smaller executive terminals." Bubb also notes that turbulence may be amplified on the smaller jets flown by semi-private air carriers.

Is flying semi-private popular?

Flying semi-private became extremely popular during the pandemic, as passengers don't have to deal with the crowds of a commercial airport. Though many of those passengers have returned to regular commercial flights, there is still demand and many semi-private carriers are expanding their flight offerings to keep up.

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