Private Jet Charter vs. First Class: An Overview

Private jet charters and first class are two different modes of air travel. Both require the traveler to pay a great deal of money for the privilege of boarding. While they may seem similar, these two types of air travel are distinctly different. Chartering a private jet allows you to maximize your time at your destination and minimize the number of hours you spend traveling while flying first class means you are still at the mercy of taking the route of a commercial airline. Private jets give you the luxury of being able to fly on your own or with a group. But going first class means you still have to put up with crowds at airport security and other discomforts of commercial flights.

Some people may give you flack for asking the question, but if you have the disposable income to spend on air travel, it's worth considering either option. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between taking a private jet and flying first class.

Key Takeaways

  • Flying on a private jet or first class requires a great deal of money, but both offer passengers luxuries they wouldn't get in the economy cabin of a commercial flight.
  • Private planes are usually more economical for executives whose time is as valuable as money.
  • Private planes offer more individualized amenities to offer passengers than first-class flights.
  • First-class may be much more affordable than a private jet if you fly overseas.
  • Flying first-class is generally less expensive than buying a seat on a charter jet if you fly alone.

Private Jet Charter

Private jets are for customers of the high-end travel industry. As the name implies, it involves hiring a private jet in order to travel to your destination. This allows the party making the reservation to control who boards the flight, whether that's friends, families, or colleagues in the case of corporate travel. Chartering a jet can be costly but there are certain perks that go along with it.

First, chartered flights offer passengers a great deal of luxury and convenience. This allows individuals to avoid the hassles of dealing with the crowds and security at the airport that people who fly commercial airlines have to go through. It's also a time saver because travelers who charter flights can set up their own flight timetable, which means they set the departure time. These individuals also don't have to deal with layovers and flight changes.

The onboard experience on a chartered flight is also tailored to give flyers a more personal experience. This also includes the amenities that are on board. For instance, travelers can choose their own flight crew, they may be given catered meals, and have access to technology and entertainment systems. And since there are far fewer passengers, travelers have more room to move freely throughout the flight.

Charters are fairly common for corporate and other business travelers. This allows them to conduct business while in the air or to accommodate their busy schedules. In some cases, private jets allow goods and services to be transported between companies and their customers. Other people who frequently charter private jets include celebrities and athletes.

Joining a loyalty program and using a cash back or travel credit card can help lower the cost of travel, whether that's on a private jet or for a first class ticket on a commercial airline.

First Class

Just like charter flights, flying first-class costs more money than purchasing a flight in the economy section. But unlike private jets, first-class travelers have to go by the airline's schedule. This means they have to go through airport security, deal with crowds, layovers, delays, and long lines at the terminal.

True, first-class flying on a commercial aircraft comes with amenities. They benefit from priority boarding, which means they skip the line to get on board. They are seated in a reserved section at the front of the plane and are given certain perks, including free beverages and meals, larger seats, more legroom, and other benefits. In many cases, airlines customize their seating to provide passengers with the most comfort, including sleeper seats. The services that come with first-class flying, though, are generally not at the level or personalization of flying privately.

Long trips require a larger, more expensive plane with a bigger range. Although it is an expensive form of travel, it is considerably cheaper than hiring your own plane unless you took a very large group with you on the charter and would have otherwise bought everyone first-class seats.

Commercial aircraft only have access to the largest airports. If the traveler is flying to attend a meeting well outside the nearest metropolitan area, they need to add significant round-trip driving time to get from the metro airport to the meeting location.

Tip

When weighing fare options, consider business class as well which can offer luxury perks and amenities while costing less than first-class.

Key Differences

While we've laid out some of the most obvious differences between flying on a private jet and flying first class on a commercial airline, there are very obvious distinctions between them. Here are some of the most obvious ones.

Cost

One of the main differences between these two forms of travel is the cost. Chartering a private jet can cost anywhere between $1,300 to $13,000. That cost, of course, can be per hour. The cost can be higher, though, depending on a certain number of factors, including:

  • The destination
  • The amenities required
  • Whether the plane and crew need to wait for the traveler
  • The size of the plane, where smaller planes cost less to hire

First-class reservations on commercial flights can also cost a pretty penny, but not nearly as much. Reserving a first-class seat is cheaper on a domestic flight compared to international destinations. The cost also depends on the airline itself—some charge more because they have more amenities available to those who are willing to shell out more money for air travel.

On a commercial aircraft, you rent a seat. If you want to bring somebody with you, you rent two seats and pay double the cost. With charters, on the other hand, you rent the plane.

Accommodations

Customers who fly privately also have the luxury of bringing a lot more with them to their destination. This includes pets, sporting equipment, and other bulky items that don’t easily fit on commercial aircraft. They also avoid the risk of losing these items in checked baggage. First class flyers, on the other hand, are limited in how many bags they can bring on board. But they may be given a more flexible weight allowance than those in other cabins. And while other passengers may have to pay to check in their bags, first class passengers are normally exempt from paying.

Accommodations don't just mean the bag allowance. While commercial airlines do as much as they can to be more accessible, private planes may provide easier access for elderly, handicapped, or injured travelers, as well as better accommodating wheelchairs and other equipment.

Tip

If you prefer flying privately, you may consider investing in a private jet membership which offers guaranteed access to a private plan in exchange for annual or monthly membership fee.

Special Considerations

To the average onlooker, it’s easy to see private jet-flying as excessive. What makes it more economical is when you factor in the value of a person’s time. Private jets are able to fly into smaller airports, often getting their clients to their location faster. In addition, flyers don't have to wait in long security lines at large airports, which can be time-consuming even for those with Trusted Traveler status.

Because companies don’t want to fly their jets without passengers, they are often happy to wait for passengers flying back the same day. This gives flyers more flexibility in their schedules and allows executives to conduct business meetings and work more easily, so flight time isn't wasted. This often makes them more economical than commercial aircraft.

There’s also the reliability factor. Not making it to an important meeting because a flight was canceled is a risk some people cannot and won't take. It's likely that most people who charter flights do so because they just don’t want the hassle of flying commercial, and money is no object.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to charter a private jet or fly commercial in first- or business class can depend on your individual needs and travel budget. While a chartered flight may cost more it can yield benefits that flying commercially may not. If you do decide to fly first-class or business class, take time to compare the best airline rewards credit cards that can help you earn points or miles toward future flights.