Booking and Flying Large-Cabin Private Jets
By Bill Papariela, President and Co-Founder, Jet Edge International, a member of the XOJET Preferred Partner Network
Heading overseas this summer? When it comes to flying private jet charter for larger groups or longer distances, you’ll find extra comfort and capabilities in large-cabin aircraft. Typically, these jets can seat up to 18 passengers and have a range of 3,550 to 6,400 nautical miles (4,027 to 7,365 statute miles or 6,575 to 11,853 kilometers), which will carry you from New York to London or from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
Performance and Size
I generally group large-cabin aircraft into three broad classes: large cabin, heavy jet and ultra-long range. Each has very different performance metrics when it comes to range and average passenger load that should play a part in your decision-making process. Here are examples of the jets that fall into each category:
5.5 to 7 hours of flying time, comfortably seats 6 to 8 passengers
7 to 9.5 hours of flying time, comfortably seats 10 to 14 passengers
Ultra Long Range:
Generally speaking, all of the aircraft categories listed above can provide non-stop travel (depending on passenger load) to and from just about anywhere in the United States but very few have the range to go to Europe, South America and Asia non-stop. When you’re generating quotes or flight plans from your current provider the most important data needed in determining the performance capabilities of the aircraft are route/mission, passenger count and weight. These will data points will help guide your provider on the aircraft types needed. Keep in mind that loading up the aircraft to its fullest may not be the most comfortable ride.
Pricing per hour also differs depending on what category of jet you’re flying:
- Large Cabin: $4,200–$4,800
- Heavy Jet: $4,900–$6,000
- Ultra Long Range: $7,000–$8,500
General hourly pricing is usually based on five factors: aircraft location, fuel pricing, crew costs, aircraft age & supply and demand. Because many of the newer aircraft are limited in terms of supply, their hourly rates tend to be higher. In addition, newer aircraft will generally be equipped with Wi-Fi or DirecTV—which some owners consider added value. For example, in the heavy-jet market, the G450 is considered a newer model with all the updated bells and whistles. The same holds true in the ultra-long-range category. Compare a Gulfstream V to the Gulfstream 550: the G550, which has greater range and updated extras, will usually cost you an additional $1,500 per hour.
Another factor in price is the manufacturer or aircraft type. For example, Gulfstream is considered to be the Rolls-Royce of heavy-jet aircraft, and in most cases, is more expensive. Market demand for a Gulfstream can be greater than that for an aircraft like a Dassault Falcon or Bombardier Global Express, and that can drive down the pricing on a non-Gulfstream aircraft.
Range also plays a big part in the pricing. If you have to stop for fuel on the way to Asia or Europe, the additional time on the ground for fuel stops may, in fact, result in the same cost of going non-stop in the G550. You have to carefully review the quotes and understand how you are being charged for time on the ground to fuel, and how much it will cost to get you to your destination.
The Large-Cabin Charter Market
In the heavy-jet category, Gulfstream dominates the market by far: It’s the most prominent brand in this category and generally carries the most value. What this means is that pricing is generally higher on a Gulfstream, and during peak seasons, these jets are the first to be booked.
If you’re shopping for a flight on newer aircraft, remember that supply is limited and can make these jets harder to secure. Typically, when you’re getting a quote on a newer G450/G550 or Falcon 7X, you have to keep in mind that even though the cost is high compared to the rest of the category, you can easily lose your flight if you wait too long to decide; if you request a trip that the owner doesn’t deem to be appropriate (such as a short hop or a flight with a large passenger load); or someone else beats you to the punch on signing a quote.
Due to the recent economy, fewer older aircraft have been sold, so more owners are willing to charter a private jet. This is an excellent opportunity to secure a large aircraft at rates that are lower than in the past. Because of the large amount of supply in the market, you can drive down your costs depending on your trip. Older aircraft and their owners will consider negotiating, whereas a newer aircraft owner will likely stick to the price that’s quoted. The caveat to this is that owners and operators generally will not lower past their true costs of flying the aircraft. Keep in mind that the general aviation industry margins aren’t much more than 10% so don’t expect a major swing in cost reduction.
If you’re going to play the heavy-jet charter market, it’s important to know exactly what your needs are and communicate them clearly to the operator. It’s also a good idea to request a first-right hold on the aircraft, which requires the operator to call you before booking another trip, thus giving you first right to book what you quoted.
What’s Really Important to You?
When deciding what to book, you really need to determine what’s important to you. You should go into the quoting process with the following questions already answered:
- Do I want to go non-stop?
- Do I require a high passenger count?
- Do I have a pet on board?
- Does age of the aircraft matter to me?
- Does the brand of aircraft matter to me?
- Does the safety rating of the operator matter to me? (ARG/US Platinum and Wyvern Wingman status are good gauges of how up to snuff the operator is on safety systems.)
- Do I want Wi-Fi or other in-flight entertainment on-board?
As you look to secure a heavy-jet charter, consider these questions before you get quotes. This will save you a lot of time when you call a company like XOJET or Jet Edge because we’ll be able to give you quotes that better fit your criteria.
Finally, look for providers that specialize in this category. Your XOJET private aviation advisor will walk you through the process and help you make the right choice for your trip.
Good luck and happy flying!