If you are chartering a private plane for the first time, or even if you have previously chartered, there are several aspects to think through. A lot depends on the number of passengers, and your destination and any special requirements. This article explains the key factors to consider when chartering an aircraft.

Aircraft Size

You’ll want to choose an aircraft that can accommodate the number of people in your party. But also, be aware of passenger comfort. Older or larger passengers may require more space or might feel cramped in a smaller plane. For instance, light jets and turboprops may have cabin heights under 5 feet, whereas larger private jets have taller cabin heights and also wider seats. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can easily squeeze one more person in if need be. As an example, at SherpaReport we recently talked to an older couple who only use mid-size or larger jets, just because health issues made it harder, and more uncomfortable to be in a smaller plane.

The size of the aircraft will also depend on the distance traveled. In simple terms the bigger the plane the further it can fly non-stop. You can always make long trips in small planes, but this will add to the journey time if you need to stop for refueling. The following is a rough guide:

 Aircraft  Passengers   Range 
 Turboprop  4-9   1,800 nm 
 Very Light Jet  4-5   1,100 nm 
 Light Jet  6-9   2,000 nm 
 Mid size Jet  8-10   2,500 nm 
 Super-mid Jet  8-12   3,300 nm 
 Heavy Jet  10-18   4,000+ nm 

Age of Plane

The age of the plane will often determine what amenities are available. Some older and very small planes may not have a bathroom and so are suitable only for very short hops. Other amenities to consider, include wifi and onboard entertainment which may not be available in older aircraft. For longer flights, kitchen and galley facilities become more important, as do bigger, reclinable chairs or even beds. Meanwhile, a business traveler might need a desk, even on a shorter flight. Be sure to find out what is available on different aircraft to best suit your needs.

Another factor on older planes is refurbishment. Don’t automatically discount an older aircraft. If it has been refurbished, it may feel much newer and more comfortable than expected.

Special Requirements

In addition to the number of passengers, be mindful of how much luggage each person will be carrying so that there is enough storage space for everything. Larger items such as skis or golf bags may require additional space. As a rule of thumb, the larger the plane, the larger the space for baggage. However, it might be affected by the number of passengers and the overall weight. How easy is it to access bags once in flight? When booking, be sure to mention any specific luggage needs so that boarding can go smoothly.

The following is a rough guide to the amount of luggage space based upon a few more popular models:

 Model  Capacity 
 Hawker 400XP  46 cu.ft  
 Embraer Phenom 100  71 cu.ft.  
 Embraer Phenom 300  74 cu.ft.  
 Citation Latitude  127 cu.ft. 
 Gulfstream G550  226 cu.ft. 

Your destination airport may require special planning or a particular aircraft. Is the takeoff or landing runway shorter than usual? Is the landing strip in the mountains? Again, these may be a factor in determining the best aircraft for the job.

There are specialist charters for larger groups. In the entertainment industry, touring musicians and bands may require both comfort and extra luggage space for the equipment needed on stage. Sports teams who charter aircraft will want comfort and potentially more cargo space. At the same time, both of these particular groups may have extra needs such as space for recuperation, entertaining, catering and so on.

Aircraft Performance

Some travelers may be happy to sit back and enjoy the flight, but in other cases, time may be of the essence. If this is the case, the speed of the plane will be an essential factor. For other travelers, keeping costs in check may be more critical. A turbo-prop will be slower than a jet but can cost significantly less and so may be more suitable for a small group’s needs. Some jets, such as the Citation X, are faster than others and can get you to your destination in a shorter time.


Once a list of options regarding size, distance, baggage, and so on has been drawn up, the final decision may come down to cost. Usually, chartered aircraft are billed by the hour, and costs can range from $1,000 an hour for an older turbo-prop to $10,000 or more for a newer, heavy large jet. A variety of other factors will add to the bill. Expect to see additional charges for landing fees (will vary by airport and aircraft size), ramp fees (if parked at the airport for any length of time), fuel, segment fees, and Federal Excise Tax (currently 7.5%). After that, there could be a variety of extra fees for the crew (including any overnight costs), repositioning of the aircraft, de-icing, catering, and any international permits. When booking, be sure to request a comprehensive breakdown of projected expenses, using the list of charter charges here as a guideline.

You might choose to work with an air charter broker, who will have access to a wide range of operators. A good broker will work with you to consider all of the above factors and to help you find the best match at the best price. The broker can also take care of every last detail, from paperwork to special meal requirements. This article details how a charter broker can help you and provides advice on how to find one.

Alternatively, you may be working directly with a charter operator. Perhaps you had worked with a particular local operator before and liked their service, or maybe one has been highly recommended by a friend or colleague. Before signing any contracts, be sure to ask lots of questions about everything from experience to insurance and crew. This earlier article provides a list of suggested items to ask your charter operator.

So in summary, there are a few steps to chartering the right aircraft, but with a bit of proper planning, you can relax knowing that your travel arrangements are in the best possible hands.