Commercial Airlines vs. Private Aviation

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New choices offer you faster and friendlier ways to fly

If you've ever dreamt of owning your own plane or chartering a flight whenever you need one, it's an excellent time to explore your options. The choices for private flying fall into five categories or models, which sometimes overlap as private aviation providers expand their offerings.

Full ownership

Traditionally, owning your own plane was only practical for people flying 400 or more hours per year. However, new federal tax laws and a soft market for used aircraft have caused wealthy individuals who fly only 150+ hours to take another look.

Fractional ownership and leases

Fractional ownership and lease programs are similar to purchasing a timeshare vacation property. When you buy into one of these programs, you typically purchase a 1/16th share, which gives you 50 hours of flying time per year, for 3-5 years. You then pay a monthly management fee and per hour charges for each flight.

On-demand charters

Chartering a plane on demand is still one of the most economical methods of flying privately, and it's probably best for people who fly fewer than 25 hours per year.

Jet card programs

The number of jet card program providers has more than doubled over the last decade, in part because they provide benefits similar to full and fractional ownership, with a lower cost of entry and an option for annual renewal. A core benefit of jet card programs is their fixed hourly rate, so you know in advance how much you will be paying.

Membership model

An off-shoot of the jet card concept, the "membership" model. With a membership approach, you purchase a one-time membership and then pay annual dues, paid separately based on the type of plane you select.

Benefits beyond the bottom line

As a rule of thumb, private aviation is most cost effective for flights between 2-3 hours. And cost may be a primary concern, but there are other factors to take into account. For instance, the many benefits of private aviation such as time savings, convenience, flexibility and privacy.

Saving time

When you travel on a private plane, you drive right up to the aircraft, avoid TSA lines, have your luggage put directly on board by the pilot or co-pilot, and then settle in for a stress-free flight with only a handful of other flyers onboard with you.

Convenience and access

Many of the private aviation alternatives allow you to reserve a flight 24 hours in advance – and some in as few as 6 hours' notice.


If you book the plane for people in your company or your family, you can communicate freely and confidentially without disturbing other passengers.

If you're new to private flying, don't do many trips each year or just want to try it out, starting with a single charter or a small deposit jet card is an effective first step. To see if private aviation is worthwhile for you, hear from two aviation experts here.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.