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What’s the difference between private jet charter and first class flights?

What’s the best way to travel in style – a private jet charter or a first class flight? There’s a lot to consider, from luxury airport lounges to onboard facilities, flight duration and price. Read more about how these two luxurious flight options compare in terms of comfort, privacy and convenience.

The airport experience

Woman in business class lounge being served drinks by hostess
Woman in business class lounge being served drinks by hostess

First class flyers enjoy access to exclusive airport lounges, often shared with business class passengers. Top picks include the Emirates suite in Dubai (which is one of the largest airport lounges in the world) with comfy seating, nap rooms, shops and a cigar bar. The Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge in Doha even boasts a Jacuzzi, while many others have spas offering complimentary treatments, such as Thai massage at Bangkok’s first class Thai Airways lounge.

Although check-in, screening and customs services are usually much quicker if you’re flying first class, you are still on a commercial flight after all, and will need to arrive several hours before your flight. First class passengers also have to deal with busy airport terminals, security queues and long walks between terminals. Although you’re invited to board first, you’ll have to wait for other passengers to embark before take-off and wait for everyone to get off the plane before you can get your luggage from the carousel.

Private jet passengers, by contrast, can avoid the hassle of hectic airport terminals because services run from private Fixed Base Operators (FBOs). This means you can turn up as little as 10 minutes before your flight, head straight through security, board, and then take-off. Often, a concierge service will deal with your luggage and check-in and there’s an express security and customs procedure. You may even be driven straight onto the tarmac. Since their launch in the 1920s, FBOs have become even more extravagant, with five-star facilities that include:

  • Beautiful lounges with complimentary food and drinks
  • Multimedia conference rooms with Wi-Fi and audio-visual equipment
  • Showers and nap rooms
  • 24/7 concierge offering flight planning, transfers and hotel booking services
  • Transfers to and from the aircraft in luxury vehicles
  • Separate customs and immigration procedures
  • On-site hotels and onward car transfers or helicopter taxi services.

Some of the best FBOs around the world include Farnborough Airport TAG Aviation, which has a lounge overlooking the runway, a pub, hotel, conference rooms and limo transport to and from the aircraft. Consistently rated as one of the top FBOs in the USA, Sheltair at Florida’s Tampa International Airport offers a 24-hour concierge, two audio-visual conference rooms, catering, showers, and zero-gravity chairs in their quiet rooms.

Comfort and privacy onboard the aircraft

White leather seat interior of business jet with small TV screen
White leather seat interior of business jet with small TV screen

The difference in cost between first class and business or economy can be thousands of dollars. For the increased price, you can expect preferential boarding and stellar service, free-flowing drinks and snacks, gift bags, and quality meals – with some menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs. Seats convert into beds, and many are partitioned off or set in fully-enclosed suites. Enjoy TV screens with entertainment systems, as well as space to work. Some planes even have onboard bars and showers for first class passengers.

Emirates is often voted the best first class airline and its 777-300ER pioneered enclosed suites with lie-flat beds. These cabins feature large TVs, lighting and temperature controls, a drinks cabinet and gourmet dining options. The Emirates A380 has sliding doors for its first-class cabins, with seats that convert into a bed, as well as a shower and bar especially for first class passengers. Etihad’s first class A380 apartments go even further with a separate armchair and bed, vanity unit, private chef and shower.

So, how do private jets compare? Firstly, you’ll experience total privacy, with an entire cabin to yourself. First class flights may offer enclosed or partitioned pods, but you’ll still be surrounded by other passengers, noise and bathroom queues. When you fly on a private jet, you can relax, sleep or work in total peace. If you’re travelling with colleagues, you can safely hold confidential meetings, conference calls or presentations.

As the only passenger, you’ll receive a VIP service and can order specific entertainment and tailored menus. There’s more luggage capacity than on a commercial jet, ideal for bulky items such as skis or golf clubs, and most aircraft will even accommodate pets. Private jet interiors often top first-class cabins with flexible configurations and bespoke designs created by world-class designers. Select the aircraft most suited to your needs, with features such as:

  • Staterooms for meetings with Wi-Fi and multimedia conference facilities
  • Ergonomic seats with massage functions
  • Bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and stand-up showers
  • Fully-equipped kitchens
  • Sound insulation for a quieter flying experience
  • Fine materials and fittings such as leather, wood and stonework
  • High-tech cabin management systems to control lighting, temperature, window shades and devices
  • Adjustable cabin layouts
  • Lounges with round tables for meetings, sofas and entertainment systems
  • VIP guest suites with bathrooms and offices
  • Skylights and larger windows for more natural light and breathtaking views
  • Walk-in baggage compartments
  • Dining areas.

Popular private jet models include the VIP Airbus A319 CJ, which usually accommodates up to 19 passengers. The plane can be configured with VIP quarters, an office, a bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, a dining area, and passenger seating space. Smaller private jets such as the Bombardier Global 5000 still boast a stateroom, sofas with movie screens, a bedroom and galley.


 interior view of private jet with white leather seats
interior view of private jet with white leather seats

When it comes to cost, first class tickets are usually cheaper than chartering a whole jet. However, private jet cost can rival first class if you’re travelling as a group. With private jet rates fixed per hour or flight, flying collectively can work out cheaper per person than buying multiple first-class tickets, especially on domestic routes. So, heading to a business meeting, function, conference, sports event, or vacation? Travelling as a group can be most cost-effective in a private jet, even compared to cheap first class flights.

In business, time is money, so you should also consider the time you’ll save travelling by private charter. Charters offer a speedier service to smaller airports, with flexible flight schedules and no layovers. This means you can spend less time travelling and more time working. You can also save money on private jet rental with empty leg flights. These are discounted by up to 75% in order to avoid returning or repositioning a one-way charter empty.

Convenience and flight duration

Man working on laptop while sitting in black leather seat on private jet
Man working on laptop while sitting in black leather seat on private jet

Private jet charters reign supreme when it comes to faster, more efficient travel. While flying first class may be more comfortable than business or economy, commercial flights are still subject to strict schedules. Private jet hire offers more flexibility – if you’re running late, the jet will wait for you to arrive, and pilots can usually accommodate last-minute changes to the route or passenger list.

While most first-class services serve major airports worldwide, private jets have access to thousands more smaller airports. This means you can get closer to your final destination in one go, rather than having to endure time-consuming layovers and connecting flights. You can even take a helicopter taxi straight from the airport to your destination.

If you need to visit multiple places within a short time-frame, for instance on a corporate road show or to attend multiple business meetings, charters are the more convenient option. You can tailor your own schedule rather than working around less frequent, fixed commercial services. You’ll also save time on the ground as you don’t have to arrive hours before your flight, making private jets perfect for time-critical businesses.

Working on board

Man and woman doing business in front of a laptop onboard a private jet
Man and woman doing business in front of a laptop onboard a private jet

First class passengers have ample desk space for working onboard, as well as plug sockets and often WiFi. Private jets go one step further, offering bespoke office spaces to work in, from take-off to landing. If you’re travelling with colleagues, you can select a jet with round tables and comfy spaces for meetings, audio-visual equipment and conference facilities. Of course, you’ll also have the benefit of complete privacy and an extra level of peace to boost productivity.

Still can’t decide whether to fly privately or first class? Contact us for a private jet quote, whether you’re travelling for business or leisure.

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