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Farewell long TSA lines. By Tal Dekel-Daks on January 09, 2020
The allure of flying private is undeniable—from skipping tedious lines at TSA and arriving to the airport minutes before takeoff to the flexibility, privacy, and personalized service aboard what is essentially a plush, amenity-dotted living room in the sky.
And as more and more private jet companies and global charter operators like Blade, XO, and Surf Air spring to the skies with even more perks, services, and membership options, the bucket-list experience is more accessible than ever. No costly million-dollar jet ownership necessary.
If you’re prepared to be flexible and spontaneous and you know where to look, a private jet trip can be a fraction of the usual five-figure cost. From different levels of jet card memberships to “empty leg” ferry seats and hop-on “private-like” journeys from $89, there are various ways and variables to finding the most affordable ticket. Ready for departure? Read on.
Empty Legs, By the Seat, and Last-Minute Deals
Every time a private jet is booked for a one-way flight, an “empty leg” becomes available for the jet’s return journey. Most jet companies offer these heavily discounted empty leg journeys but tickets always have a pre-determined aircraft type, departure date and time, and destination. And while it’s a decent discount you’d be at the mercy of cancellations and last-minute changes. Have a certain destination in mind? You can sign up for a private jet company’s email alerts, download the PrivateFly app or check Twitter to find an empty leg journey that suits you.
Even more accessible are the last-minute deals and “hop-on” seat flights. JetSuite’s SuiteDeals offers flights the night before for as little as $500, or the whole jet for a private group from $2,500. Their new brand JSX offers “private-like” hop-on tickets aboard 30-seat charter jets for short-distance flights around the US. Prices are as low as $89 each way.
Private Jet Memberships
Increasingly popular, jet membership schemes offer flyers greater flexibility, convenience, and all-inclusive concierge services. Each company has perks and various tiers of their own, from monthly memberships that with an “all you can fly” fixed-price to some even offering free Empty Leg tickets for members only.
XO has four types of membership options. Their newest, “RISE” is $595 per year and perfect for new or inexperienced flyers. “Select Access” ($250 per month) is for customers who fly less than 25 hours per year. Members can access daily deals without the pay-as-you-go $395 non-member fees. They can buy single seats or create a crowdfunded flight with fellow members. Check their daily special deals to find routes at the best prices.
“Surf Air Express” is a membership for occasional travelers who want to have the convenience of private air travel without paying a monthly fee. The annual membership costs $2,500, and one-way flights start at $445. Members of this al la carte program have access to all routes and can book via an iPhone app. There’s no penalty for changing or canceling flights, even at the last minute.
Wheel’s Up (who bought Delta Private Jets recently) allows members to organize “Shared Flights” with each other to reduce the cost per flight significantly. Membership also gets you a complimentary ticket to attend “signature Wheel’s Up events” including The Masters and Art Basel.
Travel on Key Routes and Seasonal Shuttles
Winter in Aspen, summer in Nantucket? Follow the most popular routes seasonally to find the best shared-jet pricing. According to PrivateFly‘s Private Jet Charter Trends 2018 report, the most popular routes for private jets in 2018 were London to Paris, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and London to Nice, with the most popular date of the year is May 26, the same day as Champions League Final, Cannes Film Festival, and a public holiday in the US.