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7 ways to fly by private jet for less

Thanks to some high-flying start-ups, the average traveller can now board the private jet market. We look at the best ways to fly like a VIP — sometimes at economy prices

Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:03 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 16:06 BST
Private jet

With some industry savvy, travellers can bag a bargain on board a private jet

Photograph by Getty

1 // Use empty legs
When a jet has only been booked one-way, or has to return to base without having sold the route, it may offer an 'empty leg'. It's tricky to find one for a specific journey — in terms of exact location and travel times — so this works for more flexible travellers. Victor and VistaJet have luxurious fleets often travelling to far-flung destinations, making flights beyond the means of most travellers but empty leg fares are still a tiny fraction of standard pricing.

2 // Find cheaper empty legs
At the more affordable end of the spectrum, there's Surf Air. This subscription service offers unlimited flights for £1,825 a month. App-based JetSmarter describes itself as the 'Uber' of jet travel, charging per flight, or offering unlimited flights for an annual membership; while LunaJets offers empty legs charged per flight. Prices vary wildly but flying one-way from the UK to France could be as little as £350.

3 // Be a groupie
Flight sharing helps lower costs. A 'budget' model, Wingly pairs passengers with pilots. Dubbed the Airbnb of jet travel, verified pilots register for the service and add details of their planned flights, which are then available to book. Planes are usually lower spec (this isn't Learjet territory), and the service favours pilots who simply love flying and want to keep their hours up, so it's cheap and definitely cheerful. There's no subscription, and passengers split the cost of the trip (fuel, landing fees etc). A one-way flight from the UK to Europe
can cost as little as €20 (£18). See also:

4 // Compare and book online…
… just like you would when booking a regular flight. For lauded algorithms filtering live availability and pricing for thousands of aircraft, StrataJet leads the way. Other award-winning booking or 'flight brokering' sites with access to thousands of craft and routes include PrivateFly, and JetApp.

5 // Choose your airport
Landing and handling costs at some airports are cheaper than others, so you'll save money if you're flexible about where you travel from/to. Accordingly to PrivateFly, for example, you could save up to $2,000 (£1,484) by landing at Stansted rather than London City.

6 // Choose your jet
Nerves — or possibly just the status factor — mean private jet passengers often insist on travelling only in the newest planes. But the age of the craft doesn't necessarily mean less comfort or safety. Flying on a 10-year-old jet costs less than one just off the production line, and the older plane may have recently undergone a high-spec refurbishment and have excellent maintenance records.

7 // Fly no-frills, in fair weather
Forgo the fizz? More often than not, catering is factored in as part of the fare, so you end up forcing down the in-flight Champagne. But many services let you stipulate what extras you want, which can vastly reduce costs. Other additional costs can include de-icing. In cold weather, your plane may need de-icing before it's safe to take off, so ensure that cost is either included in a flat waiver fee or as part of the headline price. Alternatively, fly in fair weather only.

Rule of thumb
Downsize your craft to keep the cost lower and over short distances, fly by cost-effective prop plane (as opposed to jet) if available.

Follow @TravelBarrell

Published in the July/August 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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