Aircraft charter has been around for a long time. It allows you to make use of a given plane for a given journey without any other long term commitment. There are thousands of aircraft available for charter, covering all sizes of planes from single engine turboprops to large executive jets. There are also a large number of air charter companies, who each provide their own level of service.

The Advantages of Air Charters

If you only fly on private planes a few times a year, then chartering is usually the most economic option. You simple pay for the journey you make, with the major cost factors being the type and age of the plane and the distance traveled.

Unlike fractionals or jet cards you don't have to put up a large sum of money upfront - with all it's attendant financing, cash flow or risk issues - and there are no ongoing monthly fees to pay

With so many planes available you can choose exactly the type of plane that fits your travel needs, whether it's a light jet to take a handful of people to a meeting 700 miles away or a larger jet to fly across the continent.

If you already have a fractional jet or a jet card, then jet charters can provide a useful supplement or can be the best plan for short trips - whereas fractional programs may impose minimum flight times which make short trips extremely expensive.

See the article on advantages of private plane travel for other benefits.

The Downside

One disadvantage to jet charters, as with any sort of private flight arrangement, is that it can get very expensive. If you fly more than 20 hours a year on private planes it's worth starting to look at alternatives such as Jet Cards or Fractional Ownership.

Also, you have to take into consideration that aircraft demand will be higher at certain times of the year. Usually during peak travel periods, you will be competing with prominent individuals and families who charter, and you'll be competing with fractional fleets, who use the best charter aircraft to supplement their own fleets at peak times. In particular the fractional fleets make sure that they use only the best charter aircraft, so that their owners/customers who are paying top dollars are not disappointed. Given all this, the availability of aircraft may be limited at these peak times.

Standards of service, safety and quality of aircraft vary widely. So you need to get a good feel for the company you'll be working with, their staff and the quality of their planes. If the company is small you'll want assurances as to what they will do if the aircraft or crew are unavailable at the last minute. The good companies clearly have arrangements with others to provide backup services.

The Costs

The costs of chartering vary depending on aircraft, geographical location, time of the year, time of booking and service provider. Some example base price ranges per flight hour are:

  • Turboprop        $1,400 - $2,750
  • Light Jet           $2,200 - $4,100
  • Mid Jet             $3,500 - $5,900
  • Super-Mid Jet   $5,200 - $6,900
  • Heavy Jet         $5,700 - $11,000+

These are the base starting points and there are always additional items that will be added to your final charge. When you receive a quote from the charter company make sure it includes all the following charges - landing fees, fuel, fuel surcharges, catering, taxes, ramp fees and any applicable overnight expenses for the crew. Read this article for more details about jet charter costs and whats on the invoice. If a suitable plane is not available at your local airport you may be charged a repositioning fee to bring the ideal plane to you, and if you're only flying one way you'll probably have to pay the "deadhead" costs of the plane flying back to its base. If you have a specific flight in mind and want to know the price, then use the charter price quote tool on this page.

Overall

Folks flying out of a given airport often build relationships with a given charter company - they then get to know both the planes and the pilots and crew, so that each time they fly, they know exactly what they are getting. If you're new to the charter market it's worth investigating all your local options to see what planes are available and whether they fit your needs. As you narrow your search, use these questions for air charter companies, to help find the right supplier for your needs.

Alternatives include working with charter brokers who have access to a large selection of charter planes. This article covers finding a jet charter broker. If you're going to be doing more than 10 hours of private flying a year then start to look at Jet Cards and Charter membership clubs.

Overall, chartering a plane makes the most sense if you're an infrequent flyer or you want to supplement one of the other private flying methods. Read the articles below for further information.