Flying private can be confusing. It’s often thought of as a luxury—a nonessential service reserved for the uber wealthy—even as many travelers justify paying top dollar for first-class seats on commercial airlines.
As the pandemic continues to have a significant effect on how we move around the United States and the world, we’re seeing priorities shift and more travelers turning to private charters for the first time. They are finding that it is more practical and not as cost-prohibitive as they might have expected.
My company, Silver Air, has seen a nearly 40% increase in private charters this July over last year, with the majority being first-time private flyers. Our business is still strong this fall, and again, that’s largely thanks to people new to private charters.
The increase this summer came after we launched the Silver Air Private Jets COVID Cleared program, communicating just how controlled our service is by reducing potential travel touch points down to virtually zero. Safety in travel has been redefined, and we wanted to reduce risks of COVID for people who still needed to travel. It’s not about optics. It’s not about luxury. It’s about health, safety, and providing the highest level of control, which has really always been inherent to flying private.
Now, with so many new flyers entering our space, we want to take everything we’ve learned and simplify the education process for new private flyers by addressing the top myths around private aviation.
Myth #1: Flying private is only for celebrities or the ultra-wealthy.
Historically, business travelers have made up the majority of our customer base at Silver Air Private Jets, in part because we check a major box in terms of time savings and efficiency. Flying private is like having a time machine. The time required to visit another city for a meeting and be back home before dinner is significantly reduced by flying private.
In 2020, we’re seeing a new trend. Some families and groups of friends are traveling in “pandemic pods” (made up of people who have been quarantining together). They feel more comfortable reducing their exposure to people outside their pod, and they share the cost, which can often be comparable to a group of round-trip, first-class tickets.
Myth #2: All private jets are created equal (and so are operators).
Knowing who you’re flying with is vitally important. There are myriad options for travelers, and the best advice I can give to someone who is trying private aviation for the first time is to ask a lot of questions before booking a flight.
When you begin talking to a broker or operator, ask how many planes are in the fleet and ask to see the fleet list, which includes the types of planes they operate. Don’t get “sold”—get informed.
Once you’ve chosen your plane, ask to see the manufactured date and/or refurbish date so you know how old the plane is and how long it’s been in operation. The more recent, the better.
And above all, don’t be afraid to ask an operator to help you to find the best value options (which isn’t always synonymous with the best price). You have the power to request all of this information. Know what you’re getting for the money you’re spending and make sure the experience will be safe and reliable. You don’t want any surprises, and should not have any with a good operator.
Myth #3: Private jets can only travel to certain airports.
Private jets can and do fly to nearly every airport in the world. We can access many more airports than commercial flights, and a lot of times, the smaller airports that private jets utilize are nicer and more convenient as well. In some cases, runway size has to be considered but a solution can always be found to get our passengers exactly where they want to go.
For example, some of our top 2020 holiday season destinations are Los Cabos International (MMSD), Licenciado Gustavo Ordaz International Puerto Vallarta (MMPR), Kahului (OGG), and Aspen Pitkin/Sardy Field (ASE). Even at some of these large airports, private flights give passengers the option to bypass the crowds of holiday travelers.
Myth #4: Smaller airplanes aren’t as safe as bigger airplanes.
Private jets have every safety feature and system that a big airliner does. Pilots are trained the same way. Every safety feature you will find in a 787 is also available in a Challenger 300 (a popular private jet model), including two jet engines and hydraulic backups. These are not your grandfather’s private airplanes.
Myth #5: Flying private is complicated.
Flying private is really very simple. Learning about the options might be confusing, but the actual trips are about as simple and convenient as traveling can be.
Having a good private jet advisor is critical (I’m biased and think ours are some of the best in the business), and they are typically available around the clock to educate travelers, answer questions, and help book flights.
Once you’re booked, all you have to do is show up. Your private jet advisor and the flight operator will handle the rest.
Bonus tip: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t sacrifice safety for cost. A super-low price compared to everyone else might be a red flag, so dig deeper to find out why. There’s no upside to cutting corners in the sky.