In a recent survey of SherpaReport site members we asked who they fly with, when they are flying privately. The results are below, together with a discussion of who uses private aviation.

Survey Results

In the survey, we asked site members “When you fly on private aircraft, who flies with you?”. Members could give multiple answers to the question, but by far the largest category of answer was “Family and friends”, with 90% of respondents checking this box.

There were several answers about flying with business colleagues, and the combined total for these responses was 48%.

The breakdown for the different types of business colleagues was:

  • C-Suite Executives      12%
  • Senior Executives       11%
  • Business Associates  25%

In other words, it’s not just the C-Suite who are flying, and our research confirms earlier research from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

Business Use

According to the NBAA research, on business aircraft “86% carry marketing and sales personnel, technical and engineering staff, middle managers and company customers.”

In addition, the NBAA says “45% of companies that use business aviation have less than 500 employees and furthermore only 3% of U.S. business aircraft are flown by Fortune 500 companies.”

Business aviation flights serve more than 10 times the number of U.S. airports than the commercial airlines, (approx. 5,000 airports vs 500 commercial) and many businesses are located in areas without any scheduled airline service. This means business passengers or anyone else flying privately can often get much closer to their final destination.


In our survey we gave a box for free form answers to let members say who else they traveled with. And the overwhelming answer was, the family dog, with comments such as:

  • “Dogs - this is the real reason. Able to bring pets.”
  • “Our Family Dog”
  • “Golden Retriever”
  • “My dog”

Interestingly, no-one mentioned cats, although they are also very welcome on private planes, as are many other family pets. All the large private aviation companies regularly carry pets and just require advance notification that a pet will be along for the ride. Clearly if you are flying on your own plane, it’s totally up to you who comes along and which pets are on board.

Celebrities & Many More

The popular media is always keen to talk about, and to show, celebrities on private jets and these famous, wealthy celebrities do fly privately. But passengers come from a range of backgrounds. In addition to business people, wealthy families and individuals, successful entrepreneurs, government officials, politicians and heads of state all use private aviation. For instance, private jets are widely used in US Presidential campaigns. There are also specialized private aviation services that fly sports teams to games and organize the logistics for major music tours.

It's important to note that while private aircraft are often associated with luxury and exclusivity, they really serve practical purposes. Users value the business efficiency, time saving, privacy and logistical convenience.