Top-Flight Private Jets
Need to arrive on your own flight schedule—or enjoy an en route shower or queen-size bed? These private jets deliver you in style.
Flying privately is the ultimate luxury, especially when compared with the typical in-flight experience on today’s cash-strapped airlines. Given the cramped middle seats and lukewarm mystery chicken most of us contend with, the idea of tucking into pork belly and microgreens on Pickard china (the same brand that the Obamas use), and then sinking into a plush leather chair with a cashmere throw seems almost unfair—even if the experience costs upward of $1,600 an hour.
Yes, thanks to modern design advances, private flying is now more comfortable than ever before. Today’s jet-setters can enjoy the almost unimaginable pleasures of communal in-flight dining areas (set with fine silver and crystal), full-size pullout beds and bathrooms with modern shower stalls. High-tech amenities in private jet cabins range from the entertaining (iPod docking stations and plasma TVs) to the practical—in-flight Wi-Fi, fax machines and international phones. Pilots and flight attendants, too, are handpicked and expertly trained, and put the smile back in service.
But when sensitive business is involved, many travelers say jetting privately only makes sense. Though exclusive trips come at a serious premium, the time saved (by not having to check in luggage, wait in security lines or work around an airline’s flight schedule) is considerable. Where commercial planes have access to 450 airports in the United States, private jets can deliver passengers to more than 5,000.
The appeal—sometimes necessity—of private flying applies to a range of business travelers. “It’s a no-brainer, especially to inconvenient destinations,” says Lisa DeSimone, who works for an East Coast–based insurance company. “What would take me six hours and a connection on a commercial flight is a direct 90 minutes on a private plane.” Notes comedian Dan Nainan, “I’ve been in situations where I wouldn’t have been able to do two shows in one day because of commercial flight schedules—so I ended up making more money by flying private.”
The many creative options these days for private-jet usage make flying privately a reality for many who thought it out of their reach. While fractional aircraft ownerships (pioneered by NetJets in 1986) still have a firm footing in the marketplace, today’s private jet companies are offering travelers new flexible solutions like hourly jet cards (prepaid cards sold in 15- or 25-hour increments) and pay-as-you-fly models. Many private jet companies own or have access to a number of aircraft, so stellar service—ranging from fine onboard amenities to personalized bookings—ties the best of these owners, charter companies and brokers together.
For a rundown of our favorite private jets—and the companies that offer them—read on.