In Travel

A High Flyer’s Guide To Chartering A Private Jet

Chartering private jet planes is a growing trend within Australian aviation. Whether you want to charter a quick jet from Sydney to Melbourne, or a luxury liner to the United States, here's what you need to know.

Flying first class used to be the pinnacle of luxury travel, but chartering your own private jet, complete with cabin crew and on board catering, is a tough act to beat.

No longer just  for celebrities and high-powered politicians, high flying Australians are increasingly turning to this lavish method of transport for both personal and business trips.

David Mackey, chief flight manager of Flight Charter (an online broker for chartering private services), said that his customers will employ a charted flight for weekend getaways interstate, day trips to major cities and smaller towns and even for travel to other continents, with no limitations on how short or long the trip may be.

The interior of a Boeing 737 BBJ is just like a comfortable lounge. Photo: Supplied

“In the US and Europe it’s been very common and mainstream for decades. It’s definitely getting more popular in Australia and the standard of service here is increasing,” Mackey says. “There are more aircrafts available and it’s becoming more well known to private sector individuals.”

Depending on the aircraft, a round trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast will cost roughly $12,000. A long-distance flight aboard one of their first-class planes from Melbourne to Hawaii can add up to around US$250,000. With a private charter, customers pay one price for the entire service, rather than per head.  

“The reason people hire a private aircraft is normally because it’s convenient,” Mr Mackey said.

“Maybe the airline’s schedule doesn’t suit them, they might want to stop somewhere along the way, or want to take a group of friends and it works out to be comparable to an airline. They might want discretion or maybe they just want the experience.”

Mr Mackey has one particular customer who charters a flight every Friday during the snow season.

Private jets such as the Challenger 604 are popular charter options. Photo: Navair

“They have accommodation there for the season, they gather the family, get out to the airport, onto the plane and then come back Sunday afternoon,” he says.

Depending on the level of luxury you seek, there are different aircraft available, in economy, business class and first class standards.

“Economy is a small twin engine airplane with four to eight seats,” Mackey says.

“Business class is more sophisticated, it’s another twin-engine plane but it’s bigger with six to 10 seats and it’s very nice inside. The first class jets can be small jets or larger planes.”

Every class enjoys the perks of parking at the airport, lounge facilities, the ability to board directly from the tarmac, and of course, you’ll have your very own pilot. For added luxury, you can hire on board caterers and flight attendants. On some flights, you can even bring your pet along.

Rick Pegus, general manager and pilot at Navair, said he often pilots planes for high net worth individuals who like their privacy. He’s flown the likes of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Hollywood starlet Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban, heartthrob Liam Hemsworth, Australian PR queen Roxy Jacenko, and even international pop-sensation One Direction.

Rick Pegus of Navair. Photo: Supplied

“Normally we have a minimum charge; we do a minimum of 1.5 hours of flying for the day,” Pegus says.

“In a light jet, it’s about $2500 per flight plus about $800 for the pilot.”

A flight from Sydney to Melbourne return with Navair will set you back about $9000 in a smaller plane, while larger planes can cost up to $7000 per hour. Pegus, who has been a pilot for 22 years, says he and his team have flown customers to Honolulu, China, Fiji and Bora Bora. 

“On a small charter, where you don’t have cabin crew, we’re doing everything – making sure the catering is prepared, the cabins are clean.”

The interior of one of Navair’s cabins. Photo: Supplied

While he doesn’t cut the sandwiches himself, as the pilot Pegus ensures the catering is fresh, and arrives 90 minutes before takeoff to check the weather, research the inbound airport and ensure everything is prepared for the flight.

Some services can act as the equivalent of having a car on standby, ready to take off after a meeting or whenever suits the passenger.

“We get to really have a conversation with the passengers and they can ask us questions, the can come to the cockpit which they can’t do on a normal flight and that adds to the experience for the customers,” Pegus says.

The booking process is only slightly more involved than ordering an Uber, as there are different planes and options available.

“It doesn’t take very long to book if you’re happy with everything. It’s a five minute conversation and then you can decide whether you want to get your credit card out and do it all over the phone,” Pegus says.

Published 09 August, 2017