Chartering a private jet, sometimes referred to as private jet rental, on-demand, or ad hoc charter, is not as simple as booking a flight on Expedia or reserving an Uber, despite what you may read.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about chartering a private jet.
Charter flights are sold directly by operators, brokers, and platforms that connect consumers directly to operators. When an operator doesn’t have a charter aircraft to fit your needs when you need it, operators will broker flights on other operators, what’s referred to as off-fleet bookings.
On-demand private jet charter or ad hoc charter refers to chartering a private jet, turboprop, or piston aircraft on a flight-by-flight basis. With an on-demand charter, your trip is priced out each time based on market conditions at that time. Pricing for ad hoc private jet rentals can vary widely based on supply and demand.
Yes. Jet cards are a form of private jet charter. However, jet cards are not an on-demand charter. They typically entail paying a membership fee to join a program or depositing funds for future flights, in some cases both. Here are some frequently asked questions about jet cards.
Yes. To conduct charter flights, the operator has to have an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) issued by a national governing body. In the U.S., the rules governing charter operators are referred to as Part 135, or specifically 14 CFR Part 135 Air Carrier and Operator Certification.
The aircraft you charter are sometimes owned or leased by the operator you are flying with. However, a large portion of charter aircraft is managed for third-party owners. These owners are usually UHNW individuals and companies. When they aren’t using their aircraft, they allow their operator to rent their jet on the charter market. In some cases, owners give their operators blanket approval to charter their aircraft based on a calendar of when they won’t need the aircraft. In other instances, particularly for larger and newer jets, owners may need to approve each trip. It’s part of how the charter market is changing.
U.S. charter operators had three fatal private jet accidents with 18 deaths from 2010 through 2019. Turboprops operating charter flights under Part 135 suffered 15 fatal accidents with 43 deaths, according to a report by Aviation International News. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 100 annual bathtub drownings. You can find Private Jet Safety: Questions To Ask here.
Illegal charter, sometimes referred to as gray market charter or Part 134.5, are flights operated for compensation by an aircraft that is not on the certificate of an operator with an Air Operators Certificate (AOC). Illegal charter is often hidden via non-compliant dry leases. Compensation doesn’t need to be monetary. Aircraft not on an operator’s Part 135 certificate do not have to comply with the same maintenance, pilot safety, training, duty time, and medical requirements. From 2010 through 2019, Part 91 jet operations had 31 fatal accidents compared to 3 for Part 135. For turboprops, it was an 82-to-15 margin. In addition to liability issues, Part 135 flights have a significantly stronger safety record.
One sign is a significantly lower price. Since the operator doesn’t have to comply with Part 135 regulations, they have lower costs. You can verify operators and aircraft are compliant via the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) website.
You can submit a report via the National Air Transportation website here.
Not in the United States. However, they need to abide by the Federal Aviation Administration’s 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 295 rules set in 2019. The rule defines air charter brokers and allows them to provide single-entity charter air transportation of passengers as principals or bona fide agents.
It also requires air charter brokers to automatically make certain disclosures to consumers in some cases and upon request in others. Further, it outlines practices by air charter brokers as prohibited or unfair practices.
While several charter brokers and platforms like Jettly claim to private jet charters like Expedia, Uber, or Kayak or to airlines, for the most part, it’s simply not true.
Despite PR claims, these brokers and platforms source and book charter flights in a similar way to analog brokers. That includes them having to contact operators, verify aircraft availability and get hard quotes – final pricing. In some cases, your request goes directly to the operator, and the operator responds to you. However, this involves the operator receiving your request and some type of manual processing. In many cases, operators may not quote your flight, or it may take a day or two for a response.
Several providers do offer hard quotes with instant booking. This is more like Expedia or Uber, where your booking request is confirmed at a final price in one step without human interaction. They do this by quoting a price they believe they can then buy or operate your flight at a profit. That’s because, unlike airlines that schedule flights six months in advance, charter flights are only scheduled after you call to request one.
On-demand or ad hoc private charter flights are priced dynamically, which simply means market-based rates. The cost of your flight in the same type of aircraft on the same route can vary widely based on season, day or week, and time of day, driven by market demand and supply.
Yes. You will find more attractive charter pricing between high-density airports, especially up and down the East Coast. Flights between busy airports are usually less expensive. For example, flying from Morristown Airport in New Jersey to Ontario Airport in Los Angeles is likely to be several thousand dollars more than flying between Teterboro and Van Nuys, nearby airports, both among the busiest for private jets in the country. That’s because using lesser-used airports means the operator will likely have to fly the aircraft empty to pick you up and then empty after dropping you off. It means a two-hour flight between secondary airports in the Midwest will generally be more expensive than a slightly longer flight between New York and South Florida.
Empty legs are repositioning flights that bring a charter aircraft back to base after dropping passengers off or picking up the next group of customers. These empty flights are sold at a discount and can save money. However, they will be canceled if others customers change their plans or the operator can better serve them using a different aircraft. Read about the good and bad of chartering empty legs.
No. Charter brokers may sell a charter without disclosing a broker. However, under FAR Part 295, you are entitled to a full refund at the time they communicate who the operator is. After operator disclosure, the DOT notes, “[A]ir charter brokers must provide the charterer with the opportunity to cancel the contract for charter air transportation, including any services in connection with such contract, and receive a full refund of any monies paid for the charter air transportation and services.”
The price to rent a private jet on-demand varies significantly based on where and when you are flying, how far in advance you book, in addition to the number of passengers. Assuming you are buying a one-way charter – not coming back the same or the next day, based on current jet card pricing, expect to pay:
You will often see brokers promoting lower hourly prices. Those cheap private jet charter prices are based on the total flight hours of an aircraft operating from a base. So you are paying for both the time you are in the airplane, and the time it takes to fly back to base as well as to pick you up if you were starting from a different airport. In the end, you will likely be paying in the ballpark of the above rates.
If your charter quotes are higher than the above pricing, you probably should consider buying a jet card to lock in better pricing for when the on-demand charter market is more expensive.
Yes, but with qualifications. When you see brokers or platforms claiming access to 5,000, 10,000 or 20,00 private aircraft, it’s more in theory. After you request a flight, brokers have to then source the aircraft options that best fit your mission. Operators are inundated by quote requests, often from online platforms. They prioritize the brokers who are good customers. They also have “Do not quote” lists of brokers they don’t want to do business with for a variety of reasons. What it means is some brokers have access to charter aircraft while others don’t.
The cancelation policy is in the contract. It’s not unusual that one-way flights and flights during busy policy periods cannot be canceled or changed after contracting. In other words, you would lose 100% of what you paid. While brokers and operators sometimes will and do waive or reduce penalties, don’t count on it.
Jet cards, in many cases, have more lenient cancelation and change policies, which is one reason experienced flyers will pay a premium for jet cards. They may also use jet cards for trips where they expect changes between booking and departure.
If the operator can’t perform your flight, be it mechanical, weather, pilot duty issues, or so forth, you will get a refund for the unused portion of your charter. You will then need a requote. Your provider will go to the market to source a replacement. You then have to choose between buying the new quote or finding an alternative.
All the contracts I’ve seen specifically exclude and release operators and brokers from any consequential damages. Whether your provider covers anything above, a refund of your unused charter fare will be based on goodwill; in other words, are you a frequent customer?
Some jet cards provide no-cost service recovery, so you can avoid a requote. However, jet card contracts also release brokers and operators from any consequential damages. That said, since you already deposited $100,000 or more, it’s not unusual to get some relief, again as a gesture so you stick around.
By far, the best way to find a good broker for on-demand charter flights is through recommendations from friends, particularly friends who fly privately on a frequent basis. They will often have a do not use list.
If you are getting a broker from another source, Google the company and executives searching for any previous lawsuits. Don’t use a broker without knowing who the owner and top executives are. Write-ups in general media only mean they hired a connected PR firm. Some of the industry’s most notable busts generated lavish praise in top outlets before closing shop. I haven’t been immune. Frankly, it’s often hard to tell.
Ask how many full-time employees they have. How long have they been in business? If they are in your area, visit the office. Who is responsible for sourcing your flights? How do they plan for recovery aircraft? What are their quality control programs both for selecting the operators they work with, verifying crews and aircraft are compliant, and then tracking everything up to your departure? Who can you contact if you have questions after hours?
To get quotes that reflect your needs, write out the following to provide to the broker or operator:
While fractional ownership starts at 50 hours per year and requires a five-year commitment, jet cards work for anyone flying over 10 hours per year, in some cases less. On-demand charter serves an equally broad market. Some private jet users who fly over 100 hours per year use on-demand charter exclusively.
You will find a large number of private flyers use multiple solutions. Even if you own your own aircraft, it will be down for maintenance and it may not fit all your missions. A big jet could be too large for short runways, a small jet may not have the seats or range for all your flights. In other words, private jet owners also charter and use jet cards for supplemental flights. View it like cars in the driveway – different autos for different missions.
If you are doing a one-off fight and don’t expect to be taking more private flights in the next six months, On-Demand Charter will likely be the best option. The same goes if you only want specific aircraft types – or specific configurations, for example, a couch in the back instead of club seats. If you need a six-feet high cabin on a super-midsize, outside of fractional ownership, there are limited jet card options. If you are flying outside the areas where jet cards offer fixed or capped one-way pricing – a big reason to buy a jet card – On-Demand may be a better option for those flights.
If you find a good broker or operator that accommodates your needs and makes things work when things go wrong, you may have already found your optimal solution. If you are always looking for the best price and fly heavily trafficked routes such as New York to South Florida and are flexible, you may find better pricing via On-Demand options. When preparing a Custom Analysis for subscribers who are using a broker for ad hoc bookings on a regular basis, I often find a card is supplemental, not a replacement.