Recently, I had the occasion to tag along with a friend who happened to own a private jet that is used for personal and business travel. As one who is usually very uncomfortable flying in any kind of aircraft, it wasn’t an easy decision to downsize to something the size of a large SUV and travel halfway across the country. I think that it was more to challenge my fears that I chose to throw caution to the wind, no pun intended, and try private jet travel.
Starting with my arrival at the airport, which was a smaller regional jetport, the experience was completely different than commercial flying. Our car pulled up to the reception area within 10 feet of the door. This isn’t so much a terminal as it is a private club reception room. The staff there is expecting you. They help you out of the car with your luggage. They put the luggage on the plane for you. There are no lines, no x-ray machines, no kiosks that spit out boarding passes. No attitude. No delayed flights. No loudspeaker. The whole experience is calm, uncluttered, seamless.
We walked about 30 yards to the plane. At first, it was a bit uncomfortable because it felt so small. But the smallness of the aircraft was completely mitigated by how much personal space each passenger had. This plane could hold at least a dozen people, but probably only flew 3 or 4 at a time on most flights. You could sit at the banquette and work or eat. You could sit on the sofa and lounge or you could sit in one of the individual captain’s chairs that reclined. There were options and you weren’t on top of one another sharing personal air space.
When it was time to leave, the process was so matter-of-fact, it would be hard to notice that things were happening if I did not have my face glued to the window. No safety message. No threats of prosecution if you tampered with a smoke detector. The door closed. The pilots went through their checks and we left the boarding area.
What I expected next was a rough take off with severe turbulence the whole way. Neither materialized. I hardly knew we took off it was so smooth. The ascent was bump-free. One minor bump the whole way which was hardly noticeable. So I asked the question of the pilot, why is a small jet so much more smooth than a commercial jet that is so much bigger. The answer was simply that the pilots on private aircraft get paid for a smooth flight. The pilots on commercial airlines get paid for an ontime arrival. Big difference that shows up in everything about this flight. When you know that, you understand why people drop millions for private aircraft. There is just nothing else like it.