Empty legs: the trick to affording private jets
The insider’s guide on how to fly private in the Middle East at hugely discounted prices.Neil Churchill April 8, 2015
What other moments are there in life that signal you have made it more than stepping foot onto a private jet, ready to be whisked away on a luxurious holiday? Answers on a postcard, please. Business Class is certainly enjoyable, and First Class is heavenly, but there is no more supreme or ego-boosting way to travel than on a plane entirely at your disposal.
Hotels and travel agents know this and for a while now have been offering their own private jet travel on the most luxurious all-inclusive round-the-world trips you can imagine. But private planes are no longer for the exclusive use of millionaire businessmen or professional athletes, thanks to two special words: empty legs. When a private jet lands at its destination and off steps its high-achieving passenger(s), the plane then needs to return to base just as commercial jets do.
But while commercial airlines return with hundreds of holidaymakers onboard, private jets often go back completely empty, and given private planes are expensive to run, that's a lot of empty seats that could have a price tag on them. Empty legs are a way for charter firms to earn a little something extra on those empty seats, and in return passengers can take a private jet for hugely discounted rates. Hugely discounted rates that is on a standard private jet fare - an empty leg seat price can be cheaper, the same, or a touch more pricey than the commercial airline equivalent. However, fill all 13 seats on a GulfStream G300, for example, and that price comes tumbling down.
Booking an empty leg though isn't just about having an empty cabin all to yourself. Private planes fly to destinations that airlines don't go to and smaller, specific airports that are less crowded. Forget luggage allowances or arriving at the airport two hours in advance; security and 'check in' takes minutes. Want to take your pet onboard? Go ahead. Eat dinner with sterling silver cutlery and drink tea out of bone china mugs. Relax in rotating leather armchairs, or collapse on linen sofas. Beds, showers, cinemas and bathrooms big enough to swing a cat in are at your disposal 30,000 feet in the air.
There is a large number of private jet firms in the Middle East and a number of them offer empty leg fares. For instance, you can fly with Rotana Jet next month from Abu Dhabi International to Colombo, Sri Lanka, for AED 932.65 return per person. The cheapest rate online for the same trip on a commercial airline is AED 1,121 with SriLankan Airlines. That's right - it's cheaper to take the private jet than the standard airline.
Privatejetcharter.ae is offering empty legs for the rest of April from Dubai to Zurich, Kuwait to Bahrain, Indianapolis to Muscat, Amman to Beirut, London to Sharjah and Kuala Lumpur to Al Ain. Royal Jet, which operates out of Abu Dhabi, too offers huge discounts on one-way charters. Choose from Milan, Paris, Rome, London or Riyadh in just the next few days. Jet Vision, Falcon Aviation and Eljet are just a few of the others.
Of course an empty leg flight is only one-way. Meaning that while you arrive in style you need to find your own way home. But that either means booking a second empty leg or slumming it with a commercial airline - neither of which, if you do your flight ticket research, should negate the purpose of the outbound flight. Do enough scouring of the internet and you'll find an empty leg deal that will give you a shortcut to that feeling of having 'made it'.