Flying private can be cheaper than flying commercial. Here's when.

  • Although more often than not, flying private is incredibly expensive, it is becoming more affordable thanks to boutique airlines like Blackbird Air and Boutique Air.
  • Flying private is often the most advantageous option for business owners that want to make the most of their time.
  • People can either charter a private flight, participate in fractional ownership carriers, or own their own aircraft.
  • Private flying might be affordable if you’re taking a handful of routes, including San Francisco to Las Vegas.

Flying private has long been regarded as an incredibly expensive way to travel.

Although that sentiment is usually true, there are certain instances and particular travel routes where it might be cheaper to fly private than to fly commercial. And there are other times, primarily if you are a business owner frequently flying for work, where flying private is more advantageous.

It is possible that flying private can be cheaper than flying commercial

If you’re an average traveller, flying private might provide a solution for you for the first time in modern history.

Thanks to evolving technology, boutique airlines like Blackbird Air are popping up across the globe. These flights typically skip major airports and put you on the doorstep of destinations like Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe without the hassle usually associated with air travel. By flying into smaller, general aviation airports, private passengers also have the luxury of skipping security lines and heading straight onto their flights.

On Blackbird Air, $US99 could take you on a float plane from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe in 55 minutes, giving you the opportunity to hop straight from the air onto the water. The alternative? An hour’s drive to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and prices ranging from $US177 to upwards of $US350 for the same flight.

Blackbird can also get you from San Francisco to Las Vegas for $US59. That’s $US40 cheaper than the starting rate at discount airline, Frontier.

Farther east, Boutique Air offers similar options out of Nashville, Atlanta, Denver, and Dallas.

Flying private can also be advantageous for certain people

Joe SillsJoe SillsBusiness owners might opt for flying private.

Flying private is often the most advantageous option for business owners that want to make the most of their time. Private pilot John Bell knows. Bell travels the country from his office in the cockpit of a Learjet 35A, ferrying business owners to and from meetings. According to Bell, the cost of chartering a flight or maintaining your own aircraft can actually save money if you’re flying frequently.

“People say time is money,” Bell said. “Let’s say you have a meeting at 9:00 a.m. on a Wednesday. With commercial air travel, you’re probably not be going to be able to get a flight early enough to get you there that morning. You’ll probably have to leave the day before and get a hotel. If the meeting lasts all day, you may not be able to get a flight out either. So that’s three days of travel for a one-day meeting.”

Bell said his passengers, who are typically wealthy business owners travelling for work, are able to condense multiple days of travel into just one day. “If you’re netting a million dollars from your meeting, what is a $US10,000 flight?”

These three forms of private flight options are the most popular

Private planeHarold Cunningham/GettyImagesChartering a flight can cost as much as $US50,000.

The most common option for private flying is chartering a flight for a one time fee, according to Bell. Those rates can range from $US10,000 to upwards of $US50,000 depending on the distance and aircraft.

Additionally, Bell said some business owners participate in fractional ownership carriers like Net Jets. This allows travellers to buy a block of time – say, 50 hours – on an aircraft to use at their discretion throughout the year.

Finally, many businesses choose to own their own aircraft. “That’s the most expensive up-front cost, but if you compare it per hour, it’s actually the cheapest way to do it,” Bell told INSIDER. “If you’re flying 300 hours, for instance, it saves you money.” By Bell’s estimate, yearly upkeep for maintenance and crew on an aircraft like his Learjet 35A could cost $US50,000 to $US100,000 per year – less than the cost of a handful of charters.

Flying private is still an expensive way to travel in most instances

Private planeShutterstockPrivate jets could be a viable option, depending on what you are using them for.

Private air travel is still dominated by corporations, celebrities, and business owners due to its usually high cost. In the last few years, however, a seat of your own on a private plane has become more accessible for travellers not looking to spend more than they would on a commercial flight. Right now, affordable options from boutique, private airlines are still limited but for the right destination, those flights remain a viable option that could save you time and money.

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