I’m one of the lucky few that gets to fly private a lot. In 2016, I flew private more than I did commercial. I won’t get into how I do it, but I’m not an international man of mischief either. For some people however, flying on a jet is a mystery. You see the Kardashians doing it and think you know what it would feel like. I’d say TV gives you maybe 50% of what the experience is actually like, and half the time – it’s not even being on the plane that’s the best part.
Flying private has become more common, mainly because of membership programs that allow you to pay a certain fee each month/year and then jump on a spare seat if the opportunity arises. Kind of like, the Jet is going to New York anyway, why not take a paying passenger with you.
I’ve flown on a ton of them, all shapes and sizes and I’m a bit of an avionic nerd thus I love everything down from the Honeywell to the Engines. The Gulfstreams are by far the favorite. Of course they are, they’re the most expensive! For a private jet, width really is the selling point for me. It’s easy to feel cramped, and unless you’re on anything other than a Legacy or a Gulfstream the first thing that runs through your head when you get on the plane is how small it is. The Gulfstreams windows are also much larger than any other jet, and so your viewpoint is much wider.
You often see Celebrities on jets too. And the stories of them can be interesting. If you get on the fun side of your steward(ess) they might tell you some funny stories. The most common story I hear is that the Celebrities you see on the plane generally aren’t flying on it because they’ve funded their own (unless your Gaga or Maroon 5 below). They’re on the jet because someone else is paying for it. Allegedly when Winona Ryder was promoting one of her more recent films, she was on a jet and freaking out because she’d never been on one before. ‘That’s the attitude of most celebrities to be honest’ One stewardess told me. And with a 5 hour trip costing anything up to $100,000, of course, it makes much more sense to fly commercial. Andy Cohen talked famously in his biography how he walked on a United flight only to be sat next to Madonna. ‘Flying private is just so god damn expensive’. She noted.
That’s my pic on the left. A week later, Maroon 5 rented the same jet.
Anyway, onto the experience.
Like I said, the plane ride isn’t really the kicker. I’ve had a nicer experience in first class on British Airways (and that’s saying something) but that’s really just because of the flat bed. Yep, on most private jets, there’s no flat bed, unless you’re unfolding the couch at the back (if you have one). It’s getting on the plane that is the absolute epitome of luxury.
Last weekend I flew to Cabo on a Gulf. I was also running late. Everyone else was on the plane, and here I am running behind. Depending on where you are, will depend on where your aircraft is. In most cases you’ll be at a private hanger, but they are usually adjacent to the main airport, so more often than not you’ll take off and land the same way everyone else does. The process is simple. Arrive at the hanger. (I used the word hanger loosely, its a very nice lounge type building) Your pilot awaits, checks your ID, and walks you to the aircraft. Your bags are taken and thats it. No security, no fuss. I boarded my plane in less than 5 minutes after pulling up outside and giving my keys to the valet.
The second best part? You get preference over other planes. No waiting in line on the tarmac thank you. That’s right, Mr Southwest can wait right there while Mr Gulfstream butts in line and takes off. And finally? Ascending is insanely quick. Because you’re in a small jet, you can ascend at a much faster rate than normal, meaning you’ll reach comfortable cruising altitudes (usually a lot higher than commercial) quicker and can start to relax. All in all, from the time I pulled up in my car, I was cruising at 50,000 feet 15 minutes later. Nuff said.
The perks of flying private then take over. You’ll usually have a private steward looking after you, to make you tea, coffee, alcohol etc. But – unless you’ve had the plane catered, be prepared to bring your own food. One of the other perks of private? Sitting in the jump seat on the take off and landing. This is by far one of the joys as it’s such a cool thing to do, especially when you’re landing in somewhere like San Diego where you land right in the middle of the city. Listening to the pilots and the voice in the cockpit telling you 300 feet, 200 feet, 100 feet until you hit the runway is a thrill on in itself. The plane doesn’t land itself either, so in some cases you might hear the pilot say ‘I need to drop a little, we’re too high’.
Talking of landing, lets discuss how easy that is, or not so. Almost all private landings I’ve had have been a litttttle shaky. You’re in a small plane, so it’s going to get a tad bumpy. Listen, I’ve flown in a Phenom 6 seater from San Diego to Nashville and was convinced I was going to die trying to land in the Nashville winds. The plane was being tossed around like an old rag and if I wasn’t three sheets to the wind, I would have seriously been on my knees praying. If you’ve arrived internationally, guess what baby, customs comes to you. I’ve never waited more than ten minutes but I’ve heard stories of them taking over an hour (how dare they) to get to the plane. Alas, you can’t get off the plane till they’ve arrived and checked your ID. Nevertheless, there’s no security. No bag checks. Nada. We leave the plane, get in our car and go home.
There’s almost nothing like flying private, and if you have the $5,000 per hour ($20,000 per hour for a Gulstream with stayovers) type of cash to throw at such a luxury, then you’d do it.
Ultimately, what I love about flying private is what you hate about flying commercial, everything outside of being in the air.
Have you flown private? What are some of your favorite things, and what jets do you love?
Xo Michael @ Bright