Charter aviation companies and charter brokers can easily provide a quote for your business trip or vacation - usually right from their website as most have online forms. To get a quote started for a private jet, they'll need to know how many people are flying, departure time and date, and your return plans. But there's more to calculating a quote than filling in an online form and if you're not careful, you could end up with a post-flight invoice full of unexpected charges.

Chartering a plane, as you might imagine, is a bit more involved than renting a car. Charter companies have to calculate landing fees, fuel costs and crew overnight fees, among other items, before they can give you an accurate quote. The largest dollar item is the basic cost of the aircraft, which is presented in the quote as the aircraft's hourly rate. For example, if you're flying in a light jet, which costs say $3,800 per hour, then on a two-hour flight, you will be quoted $7,600. Your flight will also incur five additional fees:

  • Landing fees vary by airport and usually depend on the size and weight of the aircraft. Expect fees to be in the $100 to $500 range. Sometimes these fees are waived if your aircraft is refueling at the airport. The fees are used to maintain runways and airport buildings.

  • Ramp fees are charged when a plane is parked at an airport for a length of time.

  • Fuel prices change constantly. Your quote will include a projected cost in the hourly rate. A fuel surcharge is added to make up the difference between the projected cost and the actual cost. Because airports have different fuel charges, just like gas stations, ask your charter operator or broker to compare fuel charges of nearby airports.

  • Segment fees are a government tax calculated on a per passenger basis.

  • Federal Excise Tax is applied to each flight at 7.5 percent.

But wait, we're not done. Depending on your itinerary, you could also be charged:

  • Crew overnight fees are between $150 and $600 per night, per crew member for food, transportation and lodging.

  • Crew per diem fees will be around $75 per person for food on day trips.

  • Wait time fees are accrued for time the aircraft is not flying. Ask how much you'll pay while the aircraft waits for you at the airport. Additionally, most charter companies charge a minimum usage fee, which will apply each day your multi-day trip requires the aircraft to be parked at the destination airport.

  • Short leg fees are charged if your trip is less than a minimum distance (around 400 nautical miles). Short distances mean the aircraft has to fly at a lower altitude, which uses more fuel. 

  • Reposition fees occur when you charter an aircraft that is based at an airport other than the one you are departing from. You're simply paying for the aircraft to fly from its home base to your local airport.

  • One-way fees are charged when the charter company has to fly the aircraft home empty. If you need a one-way flight, ask your charter operator to look for an "empty leg" flight, which will be discounted.

  • De-icing fees are difficult to predict, but expect to be billed if your trip encounters cold and snow.

  • International fees for permits, customs and taxes are added when you're traveling to foreign countries.

  • Catered meals beyond the standard snack and beverage fare will be added to your bill.

  • Phone charges for in-flight phone use.

  • Cleaning fees should be expected if your pet soils the carpet or some other mishap occurs.

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the potential line items, you're not alone. Patrick Harris of Velocity Jets of Fort Lauderdale, FL, says he provides a comprehensive quote without the breakdown simply because it's easier accounting for everyone. He guarantees the quote and won't generate an invoice later if the flight circumstances change the actual costs. For example, if the destination airport is closed due to weather, he won't bill for the extra fuel and fees associated with landing in another airport. He simply absorbs the costs. However, his contract states there may be extra charges for cleaning spills, catering upgrades and de-icing.

If you're comparing quotes from several charter operators, be sure each is comprehensive of all charges. This earlier article provided a full list of questions to ask your charter broker or charter operator. Once you've decided on a charter operator, you'll need to wire the entire fee, usually at least two days before the flight.

The article linked here has examples of actual jet charter prices, together with a quoting tool so you can put in the details of a specific flight and see the current prices.