Photograph by ©stefano garau/stock.adobe.com
Think flying private is only for celebrities and trust fund babies? Though they might be the most obvious passengers, skipping the security lines and overly familiar pat downs is becoming more accessible for the rest of us.
The reasons to fly private are as numerous as the ways to do it. It could be an emergency that demands an overnight flight from a small airport; a snowstorm that cancels a flight, stranding desperate skiers; or simply the desire to travel in style to a blow-out birthday celebration.
ONE AND DONE
If you need a jet and you need it now, but you don’t plan on making it a regular thing (though you may change your mind after seeing how the other half flies), you’ll need a jet broker. There are 2,500 different charter operators. We suggest checking out Magellan Jets. It offers on-demand charters that will meet your specific needs (this travel writer used them to book a flight from Jackson Hole to Joplin, Missouri—you won’t find that on a Delta itinerary). All of its charter planes meet such rigorous safety standards that it was the first private jet broker accepted by the Air Charter Safety Foundation.
While it’s hard to compare prices, an approximate quote for a flight from White Plains to Turks and Caicos on a Hawker 400XP that seats seven, is roughly $32,000 round trip. A single first-class Delta flight runs around $3,200, so it’s not that much more for a serious upgrade. Magellan also offers the option to buy a jet card and book flights against your balance. magellanjets.com
PART OF THE CLUB
If you want to fly private all the time but don’t want to take on the hassle of actually owning a plane (I mean, who does?), consider a jet club membership. Fractional ownership means that the whole plane is yours—no shared flights, just shared ownership.
NetJets makes life simple—you buy a Jet Card and book flights against the balance. A twenty-five-hour membership card on a light jet starts at $170,000. Need a bigger plane because the whole squad is coming? NetJets says it has the largest fleet of private planes and prides itself on making upgrading easy. Members can book and board in as few as four hours. Dogs are not only welcome—special doggy meals are offered. If paparazzi are a problem, NetJets will provide discretion and access to private entrances. netjets.com
WHEN REGULAR PRIVATE ISN’T ENOUGH
VistaJet is all over celebrity Instagrams. Spotted deplaning its distinctive aircraft? Will and Kate, George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Flying private is already pretty swank, but flying VistaJet is even better. Its flight attendants are trained at the Butler’s Institute of London, its Nobu partnership takes in-flight fare up a notch and it even promises better cabin air. They pressurize at 4,000 feet versus 10,000, which means more oxygen, less exhaustion. The least expensive contract available is $600,000 per year for fifty hours of flying time. Membership requires a three-year commitment—shoulder-brush with Clooney not included. vistajet.com
YOU’RE OKAY WITH SHARING
With a membership to JetSmarter, no miles are clocked. You fly “free” as often as you want throughout the year. The catch? You’re sharing the plane with other members, itineraries can be limited and flights longer than three hours can cost extra.
There are two levels of membership. For $15,000 annually you can fly unlimited on scheduled flights that are under three hours. However, you can only book two legs at a time. So hopping from destination to destination needs to be booked as you go.
For $50,000 annually you don’t pay a surcharge for flights longer than three hours and you’re able to book four legs at a time.
There is a $2,500 initiation fee for the less expensive membership, but we have it on good authority that it can be negotiated.
Membership at both levels allows you to book seats on JetSmarter shuttle flights between cities or spend-up and charter a flight that suits your specific need but only pay for the seats you use. In addition to the regular flights, JetSmarter creates routes for popular events like SXSW, Art Basel and Sundance Film Festival.
Booking is done through the app. This service is perfect for the gadabout who is free to jet to Miami last minute to escape the frigid temps and doesn’t need a specific date or time. jetsmarter.com