If you’re used to flying first class on commercial flights, then you may be wondering about taking the next step to a private jet. Here’s a run down on some of the key differences, including some price comparisons for certain trips.

As you can see from the table below, taking a private jet is nearly always more expensive than flying first class. Just looking at the cost of the airfare, it can often be several times more expensive to fly privately than to take a commercial aircraft. But the raw numbers are only the start of the comparison.

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When you fly privately, you can use more than 5,000 airports in the US, compared to about 500 that are available to commercial flights. So with over 10x as many airports to choose from, there’s a good chance that you can take off from a more convenient airport and land closer to your destination in a private plane. All of this can add up to significant time saving, by reducing your overall travel time. When you add in the further time saved by flying directly to where you want to go, avoiding layovers that are common on commercial flights. Plus the ability to arrive at the airport just 15 minutes before your private flight departure, which will leave when you are ready to go. When you put all this together, the overall travel time can be significantly less on a private aircraft, often saving hours of time.

The full benefits of private aviation are covered in this article, and include :

  • The privacy available when just you and your party are on the plane, meaning you can conduct business or hold meetings, or stay out of the public eye.
  • The reduced stress with no concern for lost luggage, no liquid bans, and a higher quality of service.
  • The flexibility to change trips at short notice, even potentially making a route change in mid flight if something important comes up.

For comparing the numbers we asked Sentient, one of the larger private jet charter companies, to give us quotes on several popular routes. We then compared these to the quoted first class fares from American, Delta and United.

For each route we looked at two trips. One a short two day trip, for which the private jet would stay with you during the trip. The second, a longer 7 day trip for which you would need one plane for the outbound flight and another plane for the return flight, which increases the cost. To keep a level playing field, we priced all the two day trips from Friday 11th July to Sunday 13th July and the 7 day trips from Friday 11th July to Saturday 19th July. The comparable first class flights were all priced for the same days using the information on the carriers websites.

For the private jet prices in the table below, we’ve shown both the cost of the whole plane and then divided this out to give an equivalent cost per seat, to make it more comparable to first class. We’ve assumed six seats filled on light jets, eight seats on mid-size jets and twelve seats on heavy jets. If you have more or less people than this, the effective cost per seat will vary.

private jet versus first class

Notes:

1 One stop on American, Delta, United
2 Nonstop on American, one stop on Delta, United
3 Nonstop on American and United, one stop on Delta
4 Nonstop on commercial. European destinations are not included in Sentient’s guaranteed service area, therefore, pricing will vary. Slot reservations are required at the London area airports
5 One stop on American and United
6 Two stops on Delta. USAirways direct flight available 2x per day starting at $830 (no first class cabin).
7 Two stops on American. Jetblue direct flight available 3x per day starting at $330 (no first class cabin).

 

One other item to point out, if you’re deciding between first class and private jets, is that you may well have more room in a first class seat. Certainly the seats in light and very light jets are typically narrower than first class seats, and the cabin height in these planes is usually under 5 ft (1.52m). So if you need more room for any reason, you’ll have to book a larger plane.

And, if you're seriously considering using a private jet, then download our Guide to Private Aviation at this link. This comprehensive report provides comparisons between all the different options, has pricing information and profiles some of the leading providers.

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