The world of Private Charter, whilst still an expensive luxury for many, is becoming more affordable. Supply and demand forces are working strongly in favour of the buyer at the moment with more plane availability than there are clients seeking to fly.
For most owners and operators a Private Jet is an asset just like the property portfolio, their shares or their racehorse. Ownership costs such as depreciation, maintenance, crew costs, fuel, handling fees and insurance all add up and the normal relationship between owner and broker has a simple objective; make it pay.
The challenge for operators now is that there are fewer clients with the available wherewithal and operators have responded by becoming far more cost competitive.
Of course, it is still an option perceived by many as out of reach, and some routes such as a transatlantic crossing are still at rates set before the economic downturn started, but without a doubt, medium-haul European flights are now not far off the same price as turning left at the top of the stairs providing that the aircraft is fully utilised.
But, the buyer needs to be aware of some marketing promotions that promise a totally private experience at easy prices. There has been a swathe of businesses promising cheap flying with the use of an ‘empty leg’, simply, booking a flight that would otherwise have been empty.
The story is that the operator is positioning the aircraft to collect someone, or returning from a delivery ‘empty’ and is just seeking to recover some costs. The story promotes an opportunity that is far too good to ignore, sadly, the reality is far from this simple. Rarely can the client travel at the exact same time as the aircraft needs to fly, occasionally their departure and destination points fit with the requirement and any change to the flight plan will mean increased costs. Sometimes the main issue is as simple as crew flight hours with very strict limits being applied.
When they work they are fantastic, invariably meaning a client travels on a plane that would normally be out of budget, or enjoys a significant discount, but we can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many times in the last few months the demand and availability have matched.
The best way to match your budget and your requirement will be to find a good broker who understands what they are talking about and has full access to the market. You should expect them to offer a full range of options (we always offer the best plane for a price, as well as the best price for a plane), and be able to discuss alternative airports and the benefits of each. Empty legs will be an important part of the discussion, as will the age of the aircraft, the crew, the facilities on board and cosmetic items such as dietary requirements and refreshment preferences, even for a luxury item like a Private Charter, these small items of detail can be the difference between an experience to remember or one you will want to forget.