Aircraft Charters vs. Ownership: Pros and Cons

Determine which is right for you
Read Time: 3.5
Sep 1, 2021

Private jet ownership isn’t for everyone, and coincidently aircraft charters aren’t either. Picking between the two will come down to your specific needs. If you have a frequent need to fly, private jet ownership may become the most logical choice.

Consider these pros and cons before making any final decisions.

A Closer Look at Aircraft Charters

Aircraft charters are best for those who don’t fly more than around 100 hours a year. Aircraft charter allows for more flexibility on a flight-by-flight basis. But, for heavy flyers, aircraft chartering can become more expensive than ownership when used often.

Pros

  • More affordable than ownership at lower flight hours
  • Flexibility in aircraft model
  • No maintenance requirements

Cons

  • Expensive at higher yearly flight hours
  • Less control over safety, privacy, and confidentiality

A Closer Look at Aircraft Ownership

Aircraft ownership is best for those who travel frequently and want the flexibility that aircraft ownership can provide. While this is a more expensive option than chartering, it becomes a more economical decision when flight hours exceed 400 a year.

Pros

  • You have complete control of safety, privacy, and confidentiality
  • Complete customization to your needs
  • More affordable for frequent flyers

Cons

  • Less economical when flying less than 400 hours a year
  • Cannot switch models on a per-flight basis
  • Must handle all maintenance and management

Making a Decision Between Buying an Aircraft and Chartering

Often, the decision to buy rather than charter comes down to the frequency of travel. If you expend many flight hours each year, there comes a time when it just makes sense to purchase an aircraft of your own.

Pick Ownership If

  • You fly for 400 to 600 hours each year
  • You have safety, privacy, or confidentiality concerns
  • You want complete customization
  • Accessibility is a concern

Pick Chartering If

  • You fly less than 100 hours per year
  • You don’t want to deal with maintenance requirements
  • You want the ability to switch between various private aircraft models
  • You don’t want to deal with management responsibilities

Alternative Options

If neither chartering nor ownership seems to be a truly good fit, there are alternatives. The two most common alternatives are the jet card and fractional ownership.

Jet Cards

Think of jet cards as prepaying for flight hours. This option works best if you know how many hours you plan to fly each year down to an exact number. These cards often come with blackout days at lower-tier membership levels and don’t include costs like taxes and other trip-related expenses.

Jet cards can be less of a hassle than chartering as you don’t need to get a new quote for each trip. Each jet card program will be a bit different. Some programs use a days-based formula, some use mileage, and others stick to hours.

Fractional Ownership

Fractional ownership is a more recent option, introduced sometime in 1986. It considers the limitations and negatives of both private jet charters and privately owned aircraft and tries to find a solution.

Essentially, with fractional ownership, you own a portion of a jet fleet. This translates not into jets themselves but into flight hours. If you have a larger fraction you get more hours.

This option offers plenty of benefits but it comes with a high cost when you are utilizing this service at a high level. This means, if you use a high number of flight hours each year it will still be better to own an aircraft.

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