Flying around in a private plane need not be the exclusive preserve of the super rich; there are options for the average wealthy too Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

When you think of private jets, passengers that include royalty and celebrities naturally spring to mind. But flying around in your own plane isn’t necessarily only for the bourgeois — although it certainly helps.

“Our clients range from royal families, corporate clients to high net worth businessmen and celebrities,” says Ross Kelly, Managing Director, Private Jet Charter - Middle East. “We also operate medical evacuations from time to time.”

Private jets aren’t difficult to hire and there is even a company that has recently launched what could be deemed an Uber service for jets. The JetSmarter app lets you book a private jet in seconds.

For those who’d rather avoid flying with the masses, here are some options.

HIRE GROUND

“It is very easy to hire a private jet,” Kelly says. “Our company can arrange a jet practically anywhere in the world.” The process appear simple enough. You phone up and give them your details, the go out to the market to source the most suitable jet that fits your requirements. “We can have customers airborne normally within four hours if required,” Kelly says.

Hiring a private jet is undoubtedly one of the best ways to fly and includes a barrage of advantages, flexibility being just one of them. “You choose when you want to fly and what airport you want to fly to and from,” says Kelly. “Clients can depart from a private jet terminal, which is away from the main terminal, meaning you only have to turn up 15 minutes before your flight.”

An added advantage is that private flights include VVIP catering, which can be tailored to suit the passenger. On larger aircraft a dedicated flight attendant will look after your every need.

Kelly says that in the Middle East the most popular destinations are from Riyadh and Dubai to Nice, Paris and London.

Getting away to your pied-à-terre in London, then, would be in the region of $70,000 (Dh257,085) one way on a Challenger 605 for eight passengers, Kelly says. “As you hire the entire aircraft, you can take up to 12 people.” An Emirates first class fare on the same route would cost about Dh21,000, or Dh3,000 in economy.

A shorter trip, such as London to Paris on a Citation Mustang for four passengers would be in the region of $7,000 according to Kelly, for a one-way trip. Cabin crew and Michelin-starred food, however, cost extra.

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OWNER’S RIGHTS

So you’ve got some change lying around and are thinking of parking it in an airport hangar somewhere? Getting started on the ownership process won’t be a major time suck. Simply put, leave it to the experts, advises Steve Hartley, Executive Director, Empire Aviation Group (EAG). “EAG can acquire a business jet, finance it, insure it, operate it and manage it on behalf of an owner. We can source any type of new and pre-owned aircraft from all over the world and find the right aircraft to suit the client’s business model and precise needs.”

The good news is that although buying a private jet is not going to be an inexpensive exercise, an aircraft could be an astute long-term investment. “Critically, unlike many other forms of expensive technology, aircraft can hold their values very well and clients can often recoup their original investment, or even make a profit when it comes to selling or trading the aircraft after several years of use and protect and maintain the value of their asset,” he says.

Apart from finding the money to purchase the jet — although finance is often available — another concern might be where to keep the jet. However, that is also something that can be easily negotiated. “The UAE is now a true global aviation hub and offers a range of attractive options for business jet owners; these include not only Dubai International and Dubai World Central, of course, but also Sharjah International and Al Bateen in Abu Dhabi,” Hartley adds.

So exactly how much change do you need to dip behind the sofa cushions for?  Depending on the model and on the exotic nature of your tastes, business jets can cost anything from $4.5 million to $70 million or more, says Hartley.

Celeb user: If Donald Trump becomes US President, would the presidential aircraft be renamed Trump Force One in line with his present jet? Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out… 

CONVERSATION PIECE

For those who don’t need a private jet on standby all of the time, there’s always the option of sharing the plane. Fractional ownership is a timeshare model that took off in the bigger-is-better 1980s before waning in boom years of this century. It has come into fashion again in the wake of the global meltdown.

“Fractional ownership is provided by a few private jet companies that own large fleets of aircraft and allow you to buy or lease a share of a particular aircraft,” says Steve Westlake, Private Aviation Consultant, LuxuryJets.

“Once you own a share you are allocated a number of flight hours each year and are normally guaranteed your aircraft type or better within a specified zone of operations, such as the Middle East, Europe or the  USA, [if] you give 24 hours notice.” 

The caveat, of course, is that you are not guaranteed to fly on the actual plane you’ve bought a share in, but one of the fleet of similar planes — or if you’re lucky, an upgrade to a bigger one.

How much does it cost? All-inclusive, on an hourly basis, fractional ownership starts at about $5,000 for a six seat light jet and up to about $15,000 for a 20-seat intercontinental jet. These hourly rates, however, do not include the share purchase price.

“The smallest share is a one 16th and that is for a six-seater light jet and they start at around $600,000,” explains Westlake. “The same share on the large jets is around $3.5 million.” Contracts generally run for about 3 to 5 years and you can sell your share back after that time.

Clearly, becoming part of the jet set is easier than ever.

Celeb user: Boy band One Direction were thought to have paid £3 million (approximately $4.62 million) to hire a private jet during a tour.