Today’s savvy private jet traveler has a host of options available when choosing an air charter flight. Just a few years ago, if one wanted to travel one-way, they would purchase a fractional share or a jet card. Today, air charter is one of the best means of getting from point A to point B – and at a good price. Your next one-way can be had at a bargain if you understand how the system works.
The internet has enabled air charter operators the ability to promote their fleet availability like never before. Operators now routinely send out mass emails to everyone in their network when they have an empty leg available. Most operators also use one of two proprietary programs that allow an instant feed on the status and location of most of the U.S. air charter fleet.
Empty legs are flights that occur after dropping off a client and repositioning to the next airport for a future client. These flights are trips that must go, whether empty or with passengers, because another client is booked to use the aircraft down the line. Most operators do not like their aircraft to fly empty, as it represents waste and lost opportunity, so they work closely with other operators and brokers to find passengers for any empty flight they might have. Your best deal can be made if your itinerary lines up exactly with the departure and arrival points and times planned by the aircraft. Using empty legs to fill your travel needs requires extreme flexibility. For example, if the client whose flight created the empty leg opportunity cancels his flight, the empty leg no longer exists and you could be left to find another flight.
Great deals can also be had if you utilize part of an empty leg. For example, if an aircraft has a Palm Springs to Chicago empty leg available, but you only need to fly to Denver, you can utilize the empty leg to make a one-way flight. This is still a great bargain but again, flexibility is required to take advantage of a true one-way flight. Other one-way opportunities are available on aircraft that “float” or fly from point to point across the country. Most air charter operators impose a cancellation fee of 100% of the charter fee if you cancel a one-way, as they will usually still have to fly the aircraft along your planned routing to pick up their next passenger as planned.
If you don’t have the flexibility to wait for a empty leg that lines up with your travel plans, or if you want the flexibility to cancel your flight without penalty, then traditional air charter is a better option most of the time. Those with flexibility and patience can benefit from some great deals now on aircraft flying across the country empty. The best way to find empty leg opportunities is to get in touch with an air charter operator or broker that specializes in the logistics of empty legs and one-way flights.