Private aircraft charter has been around for a long time. It lets you make use of a plane for one journey without any other long term commitment. There are thousands of aircraft available for charter, covering all sizes of planes from pistons and single engine turboprops to large executive jets. There are also a large number of air charter operators and brokers, who each provide their own level of service.
The Advantages of Air Charters
If you only fly on private planes a few times a year, then chartering is usually the most economical option. You simple pay for the journey you make, with the major cost factors being the type and age of the plane and the distance traveled.
Unlike fractional aircraft or jet cards you don't have to put up a large sum of money upfront - with all it's attendant financing, cash flow or risk issues - and there are no ongoing monthly fees to pay
With so many planes available you can choose exactly the type of plane that fits your travel needs, whether it's a light jet to take a handful of people to a meeting 700 miles away or a larger jet to fly across the continent or across the world.
If you already have a fractional jet or a jet card, then jet charters can provide a useful supplement or can be the best plan for short trips - whereas fractional aircraft programs may impose minimum flight times which make short trips extremely expensive.
See the article on advantages of private plane travel for other benefits.
One disadvantage to jet charters, is that you have to get a quote or several quotes each time you want to fly and this can be time consuming, especially if you are working with new operators or new brokers. If you fly more than 20 hours a year on private planes it's worth starting to look at alternatives such as Jet Cards or Fractional Ownership, where you know the hourly price in advance and you get to know the level of service from your chosen provider.
Also, you have to take into consideration that aircraft demand will be higher at certain times of the year. During peak travel periods, you will be competing with other individuals, families and companies who charter, and you'll be competing with fractional fleets, who use the best charter aircraft to supplement their own fleets at peak times. In particular the fractional fleets make sure that they use only the best charter aircraft, so that their owners/customers who are paying top dollars are not disappointed. Given all this, the availability of aircraft may be limited at these peak times and the rates will be significantly higher.
Standards of service, safety and quality of aircraft vary widely. So you need to get a good feel for the company you'll be working with, their staff and the quality of their planes. If the company is small you'll want assurances as to what they will do if the aircraft or crew are unavailable at the last minute - for instance if the crew members are sick or if the aircraft has mechanical issues. The good charter companies have arrangements with other providers to provide backup services.
The costs of chartering vary depending on the aircraft, particularly the age and condition, geographical location, time of the year, time of booking and service provider. Some example base price ranges per flight hour are:
- Turboprop $1,200 - $2,750
- Light Jet $2,400 - $4,600
- Mid Jet $4,200 - $6,500
- Super-Mid Jet $5,100 - $7,000
- Heavy Jet $6,000 - $13,000+
Note: The lowest hourly prices are often for aircraft that may be 30+ years old. The prices above are the base starting points and there are always additional items that will be added to your final charge. Some of the largest additional charges occur if you are only flying one way or if the plane has to be brought to your desired departure airport.
If a suitable plane is not available at your local airport you may be charged a repositioning fee to bring the ideal plane to you, and if you're only flying one way you'll probably have to pay the "deadhead" (or "empty leg") costs of the plane flying back empty to its base.
When you receive a quote from the charter company or broker make sure it includes all the following charges - landing fees, fuel, fuel surcharges, catering, taxes, ramp fees and any applicable overnight expenses for the crew. Read this article for more details about jet charter costs and whats on the invoice. If you have a specific flight in mind and want to know the price, then use the charter price quote tool on this page.
Folks flying out of a local airport often build relationships with a local charter company - they then get to know both the planes and the pilots and crew, so that each time they fly, they know exactly what they are getting. If you're new to the charter market it's worth investigating all your local options to see what planes are available and whether they fit your needs. As you narrow your search, use these questions for air charter companies, to help find the right supplier for your needs, and to make sure they have good safety and security procedures.
Alternatives include working with charter brokers who have access to a large selection of charter planes. This article covers finding a jet charter broker. If you're going to be doing more than 10 hours of private flying a year then start to look at Jet Cards and Charter membership clubs.
Overall, chartering a plane makes the most sense if you're an infrequent flyer or you want to supplement one of the other private flying methods. Read the articles below for further information.