Flying private (that is, renting a private plane or jet) is generally considered to be something that only the very wealthy do, but that impression may be somewhat misleading, fueled by a cultural obsession with rich reality television stars. In reality, it’s a much more common – and convenient – way to travel than one might suppose.
The United States leads every other country in the world in numbers of registered private jets. At 49.7%, registered US jet owners account for more than twice the percentage of jets registered in Europe, the next biggest user group. While most private air travel in the US is business-related, there are those who can and do avail themselves of private planes for recreational use. Guaranteed big draws include the Masters Golf Tournament and the Super Bowl.
So, what’s involved in traveling in style? The biggest difference from air travel, aside from plenty of extra space, is that most of the usual rules regarding security, what and who can go aboard, and even passport usage do not apply.
Domestically, commercial security restrictions are not observed when chartering private flights. Anthony Tivnan, CEO of Magellan Jets, states that private jets are at least as safe as commercial flights. There are several reasons for this: everyone who works or flies on that charter knows exactly who and what is on board, the crews and pirates are attached to a singular plane. They become accustomed to that aircraft and know everything about it. Private pilots must pass all the same tests and standards as pilots for commercial airlines. Private companies often hold to higher standards for Toronto aircraft maintenance than do commercial airlines. Often, the planes are not as old as those in a commercial airline fleet like Flightpath Charter Airways Inc.
Private plane restrictions on baggage, especially on jets, is limited only to the aircraft’s carry capacity. Otherwise, pets (domestically), any guests approved by the client, liquids of any kind, and even firearms are allowed. Firearms must, however, be stowed in the hold before takeoff – unloaded. Alcohol is fine to bring aboard, but must be declared at the destination if traveling internationally.
Other considerations include time savings, thanks to being able to decide on your own flexible travel itinerary , custom menus and beverage service (again, to the specifications of the client), an expanded selection of entertainment options, such as a selection of particular movies, music, lounge setup for card playing, etc., and a variety of seating arrangements, including recliners that can turn into beds. Restroom facilities may include showers, instead of just lavatories. Passports are generally stamped on request, but it is good practice to do this in order to prove legal presence on foreign soil. Additionally, cell phones, except for certain times, such as landing or takeoff, can be used anywhere where a signal can reach. In stormy skies, or over the ocean, reception will be less than ideal. WiFi is fairly standard, according to Tivnan.
And cost? Charter planes are typically paid on an hourly rate that includes fuel and the fair pay of attending staff. Exact rates vary by destination, number of stops, amenities, and so on, but surprisingly, sometimes renting a private plane can be more cost effective than first-class flights with commercial airlines.