What are empty leg flights on private jets?

Private jet travel is a popular means of travel in the US. According to aviation consultancy Argus International, the number of business aviation flights grow by 40.9% in 2021 compared with 2020, exceeding its 2019 pre-pandemic level by 7.9%. Indeed, the US is home to the largest number of business aircraft in the world, with Statista figures showing 21,900 business aircraft made up the country’s fleet in 2019.

Part of this increase in popularity has been the democratization of private air travel – primarily by a type of booking known as an ‘empty leg flight’. What are these flights? And how are they opening air travel to a wider market?

What are empty leg flights?

Empty leg flights are connecting flights that cost less than typical private flight bookings.

They form the connecting flight flown by the chartered operator when travelling to a destination to pick up their next client. For example, if a jet is in New York but needs to pick up a customer in London, then the New York to London flight is the empty leg flight.

What are the benefits for the traveler?

Operators want to fill these bookings to maximize cost efficiency, which means they cost less than typical private flight bookings. They are also often available to be booked last minute, which can be beneficial for travelers or groups operating on a flexible or short-notice schedule.

Additionally, flying empty leg still affords flexibility in terms of departure times – much more so than commercial aviation. The flight itself will also be far more comfortable, with exceptional-quality seating, greater legroom, and a much quieter, more relaxing atmosphere. All these benefits can be augmented by customized services provided for an additional fee, such as onboard refreshments.

Many private jet operators offer Wi-Fi, letting you and your group conduct business while in the sky, and the omission of any other passengers or groups means you have total privacy.

What are the benefits for the jet operator?

Passengers aren’t the only group that benefits from empty leg flights, of course. The practice allows private jet operators to ensure that space on their flights doesn’t go unused, and the company is not paying staffing, fuel, and maintenance costs without generating the accompanying revenue.

It can also be a means of generating repeat custom. Passengers can experience the service aboard for a reduced cost, returning to the operator for private chartered flights at a later date.

Empty leg flights are revolutionizing the field of private air travel, offering prestige customers even more options when it comes to work and play. So, next time you plan on jetting off across the globe, be sure to consider this exciting new way to fly.

Huynh Nguyen

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