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Private Charter Flights: What to Know Now

At a recent Zoom event for Indagare members, one hopeful traveler mentioned that, after months of “not spending anything,” she and her family were considering flying charter for the first time. They’re not alone. In our Travel Sentiment Survey, 52 percent of members (and 30 percent of those polled in the Indagare Community) said they’d consider flying privately.

We have been fielding numerous charter inquiries from members in the past few weeks. Drawing on nearly 15 years of experience in arranging charters, ranging from short hops and last-minute one-way flights to multi-stop, multi-country itineraries, Indagare is assisting both ends of the market: those who have chartered before and those who are new to the field.

Here, Indagare Trip Designer Lizzie McGirr Eberhart looks at some of private flying’s benefits—including booking flexibility, lower volume of passengers and social distance practices—and answers some of the questions that have come up.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to discuss whether flying private is right for you or to get a quote for a private option and to learn more about coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

I’ve never flown privately before and have no sense of pricing. How does it work?

There are several ways to fly privately, each with its own pricing structure. For individuals who think they’ll be traveling for dozens of hours per year, jet cards let you prepay for access to a sizable block of flights that can be used over the course of 18 to 24 months. For anyone flying 100 hours or more, fractional ownership is another option, similar to a timeshare of a condo, which requires an even larger upfront investment along with hourly and monthly fees in exchange for owning a small share of an individual plane.

To the majority of potential fliers and those looking for a more economical option, chartering individual flights is what makes the most sense. This will provide the most flexibility, access to a variety of aircraft, and the least monetary commitment.

The cost of a private charter depends on several factors. These include the length of the flight, the size and range of the aircraft, the number of passengers, and whether the plane is a ‘floater’—not based in a particular airport—or is offering an ‘empty sector’ repositioning flight, both of which can allow for discounted costs off of a regular charter price.

For a sense of pricing, here’s a recent example: a one-way flight from the New York area into the Bahamas on a super-light jet with eight seats ended up in the $30-$35,000 range, coming to around $4,000 per person.

Besides the lack of crowds, what are the main benefits of flying private?

Convenience and control are the greatest benefits of flying private. No longer at the whim of commercial carriers’ routes and schedules, you can fly directly, and on your own schedule—plane availability, plane size, and approved time slots, permitting—into most airports. The airport experience is also markedly improved, as those flying privately can arrive at the fixed-base operator or “FBO” as little as 30 minutes prior to flight time in some cases, and avoid the longer lines, wait time, and crowded checkpoints at a commercial airport. (At some airports, your driver can drop you off right at the jet.)

For international flights, passengers will still need to clear customs. One major difference, though, is that you’ll most likely pass through a separate, dedicated customs station at the private terminal rather than wait in a line with passengers that have arrived on a commercial flight.

I’m nervous about getting on small planes. How can I tell whether the charter is safe?

One easy way to confirm quality control and safety for a private charter flight is to see if they are ARGUS- or Wyvern-rated planes. These are two U.S.-based companies that offer third party analysis of the legitimacy and safety offering of an operator, confirmation of liability insurance, and vetting of pilot training and experience. There are three ARGUS ratings: Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum. Wyvern has two ratings: Registered and Wingman.

The highest levels—ARGUS Platinum or Wyvern Wingman—mean that someone from one of these companies has physically visited the charter or management company and has completed a rigorous audit program.

It’s important to consider that charter flights that are not part of these ratings systems may still operate with similar safety standards, but may be smaller companies that are not able to or have not had the opportunity to have someone come visit from ARGUS or Wyvern.

When does flying private offer the most value?

This depends on how “value” is being measured. In this time of a global health pandemic, there is an increasing value to private travel in order to eliminate small, crowded spaces within shared aircraft, additional security screening protocols and many touchpoints at commercial airports. Flying privately also allows the traveler to access smaller airports that are closer to their final destination, all of which increase the safety and control over the passenger’s environment.

From a financial standpoint, shorter-haul, regional flights with a group of people flying together is when a private charter offers the most competitive value, especially if the destination is an airport that would otherwise require connecting flights and long wait times at larger airports.

What are private operators doing now to ensure sanitization?

Like commercial airlines, private charter operators have rethought the entire flight experience to ensure maximum safety. A few steps Indagare’s partners have taken include antimicrobial protectant treatments, along with regular Ozone treatments, plus disinfectant treatments on all high-touch points between every flight. In most cases, in-flight magazines, decorative towels and other non-essential onboard materials have been removed from the planes, and dishware is being washed in high-temperature, on-the-ground facilities rather than on the aircraft itself. Crews are practicing social distancing, while passengers must complete a health form prior to boarding. Some operators may require masks from airport arrival until getting on the plane, and extra masks and hand sanitizer will be available in-flight as well.

Related: Ask Indagare: Coronavirus Travel Safety & What is Being Done as the World Reopens

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to discuss whether flying private is right for you, and to learn more about coronavirus travel safety, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

– Lizzie McGirr Eberhart on June 24, 2020

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