You might think that chartering a private plane is just for celebrities, high-stakes gamblers, or other multi-millionaires. But, surprisingly, it may cost less to hire your pilot and plane that it does to buy all the travelers in your family their first class tickets—and it often proves a lot more convenient and fun. One element that might keep some would-be fliers from chartering the friendly skies is that they’re not sure how to best secure the plane for them. Worry no more—below are five tips you need to ask before settling in on those plush leather seats.
1. Make sure you choose your charter based on where you’re flying and how many others are going with you. Hiring a private plane is a custom experience, much like buying a bespoke suit where your every measurement is taken to ensure the right fit. You pay more for the custom treatment with suits and planes, and what you’re paying for is the right fit for your needs. There are websites and agents specializing in laying out all the options for charter travelers, and then you can pick the right one for your destination, group size, and cargo needs.
2. If you think you might be going the private route for more than one trip in the future, consider joining one of the many clubs for charter fliers. These work like a timeshare for air travelers, with groups where each member pays for some portion of the price of owning and operating a private plane and then uses it according to a schedule worked out with the other members. Of course, as with any timeshare situation, vacation weekends or entire months will be the first claimed, so be sure you’ll be able to get the dates you want before buying your piece of the plane.
3. To find the best deals—even “high fliers” like to save money, of course—look for flight schools and sightseeing companies that operate out of a nearby regional airport. This is a great idea because those kinds of businesses already rent their aircraft for short-term trips and may have pilots available as well. It’s easy to find reviews online of different companies with planes for chartering, so make the most of that to get the best deal and the best experience.
4. This may seem obvious but ask around your circle of friends and family to see if anyone has or knows someone who has a pilot’s license. Paying for a charter pilot’s time may be equally or even more costly than the rental of the actual aircraft. Friends or friends of friends may be enticed to fly your group in his or her plane or on one you charter for that person to fly if they are invited to take part in the vacation itself. This doesn’t work for every occasion, but it could be helpful when it comes time to take off.
5. You might also want to invite the pilot and other crew to stay at your destination, which will help avoid “deadheading,” paying for an empty plane to fly all the way back and then come get you again. (You can also find deadheading flights and charter them for less money.) And who knows? A pilot and flight attendant probably have amazing stories to share at the poolside bar or wedding reception!