Yes, private jets are swanky. But if you can spend less money to get an equally luxurious experience in first or business class, why not fly with an airline?
A quick search turns up one-way first class flights from New York to Los Angeles for about $US1000 ($1141). The same flight with private jet charter company JetSuite costs more than $US4500 ($5133) per passenger.
That's a lot of money to justify for the added luxury of having no one else around.
To find out what the real benefits to flying private are, we spoke with the vice president of communications for private jet maker Gulfstream, Steve Cass.
Less time on the ground
It starts on the way to the airport. Small jets don't need the huge runways and staffs offered by major airports, so they can fly out of smaller spots.
There are many more minor airports than major ones, so you often don't have to travel as far to get to one. And they're less congested, making the experience more pleasant.
You don't have to deal with long check-in lines, so you can you arrive at the airport minutes, not hours, in advance. That's time, money, and aggravation saved. And when you get off, your bags are thrown right into your car, so there's no time spent at the baggage carousel.
Plus, you fly when you want. Flying on a commercial airliner, Cass says, “we adjust our schedule to meet the needs of the airline”. In the sphere of private aviation, it's the other way around.
A faster trip
Private flights aren't tied to the same hub-and-spoke networks used by airlines, so if your plane has enough fuel capacity to reach your destination, you'll go direct. “That saves a huge amount of time,” Cass says.
Private jets are usually designed to climb faster than airliners, so they're above adverse weather sooner. They usually fly faster, too.
Commercial jets cruise around 35,000 feet, but smaller jets typically fly higher. That puts them above the traffic, so their routes are more direct — they don't compete with bigger planes for space. The extra flexibility lets the jets capture better winds and avoid poor weather, too.
Privacy in the air
On top of moving faster and wasting less time, it's easier to get work done in the air when you're alone. Even in first or business class, Cass pointed out, it's risky to have confidential conversations, because you don't know who may be around.
He also directed us to a 2009 survey by the National Business Aviation Association. Respondents rated themselves as 20 per cent more productive while on company aircraft than in the office. Their counterparts flying commercial reported a 40 per cent drop in productivity.
So the next time you wonder why companies spend tens of millions of dollars to buy their own jets instead of putting employees on commercial fights, it's most likely less about creature comforts than saving time and money.