Here's Why Flying Private Might Soon Be Within Your Reach... Really

How much is it to fly private? One expert believes that it's "democratized."

The appeal of flying private — showing up 15 minutes before departure and bypassing the unpleasantries of a commercial airport terminal, for starters — is easy to grasp. So how much is it to fly private? Well, sadly, for most of us, the actual experience of flying in a private jet remains stubbornly out of reach. According to at least one expert, however, that might soon change as options proliferate.

Bob Seidel, C.E.O. of private jet charter and aviation company Alerion Aviation, believes that over the next five years, “We’re going to see an advancement in the democratization of private flight." Due to the expansion of flying clubs, the use of jet cards and the rise in generally more affordable charter solutions, Seidel said he expects an even broader demographic of travelers to utilize private aviation.

The number one reason for this shift, he told Jet Set, is the Internet; it's driving prices down through competition, and connecting buyers to sellers. "The number of aircraft available to the public for charter has increased greatly over the past 20 years," he continued. "This has been driven to a large degree by the economic downturn and these aircraft being taken out of purely private use due to economics or optics of possessing the asset.

"The number of companies and programs being offered in the space has exploded over the last 10 years from ownership with charter options to fractional ownership to straight charter to charter cards (Jet Cards) to flying clubs." Possibly giving a nod of recognition to Vanderpump Rules' Lala Kent's documented taste for private travel, Seidel credits reality TV shows and music videos for helping to whet "the public’s appetite for such luxuries." And of course, he went on to note, "the continually degrading experience of flying commercially — TSA indignities, having your pet killed, or being dragged kicking and screaming off a plane due to double booking — has made private travel much more defendable for the marginally well off."

OK, but how much do you have to spend to get a taste of the baller jetsetter lifestyle?

"Depending on disposable income," said Seidel, "there are many ways to fly privately." Here are  three:

  1. "You can form a group and charter a plane from a company like mine, Alerion Aviation, thereby spreading the cost. A light jet may be chartered for about $2,500 per hour and can carry up to seven people.
  2. "You can buy a “Jet Card” from JetSuite, Wheels Up, Sentient Marquis, and others. This breaks down the cost into hours and you can then order flights on demand and also split the costs among friends and relatives.
  3. "You can join a flying “club” like Surf Air or Jet Smarter for an annual or monthly fee. They advertise “all you can fly” deals but the deals are limited by availability and the number of reservations you may have at any one time. Also with these programs you are only reserving a seat. Not the entire plane." So, basically, all the appeal of flying private, without the "private" part.

So, are we all going to be flying private sometime soon? Yes and no, according to Seidel: "I think private travel will continue to grow and incrementally become more affordable, but it will still be the province of the reasonable well to do." In other words, you may be able to finally tick "flying private" off your bucket list but just don't expect it to become your primary means of travel.

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