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What to Expect on Your First Private Jet Flight

By Patrick Margetson-Rushmore
Flying on a private jet can be refreshingly different from the usual airline experience. London Executive Aviation (LEA) chief executive Patrick Margetson-Rushmore explains what to expect so that your trip goes smoothly.

It's your first time flying on an executive jet: so what should you expect from the experience? In some ways a private jet flight is very similar to using a mainstream airport and airline (only much better). In some ways it's markedly different.

It's hugely different, for example, in the amount of time you have to spend on the ground before take-off.

One of the biggest surprises for novice travellers is that for an 0830 flight, you arrive at 0815. If it's your first time flying in a private jet, we say 'Please don't turn up 1½ hours in advance.' If you do arrive very early you may be able to take off earlier than planned, but it can depend on the availability of air traffic control 'slots'. The major advantage of private jet travel is that you don't have to waste time, and that starts before you even get to the airport.

The other huge difference in a private flight is that the schedule revolves around you, not the aircraft. If you need a private jet to Paris and Nice and be back in London that night, not only does a business jet give you the ability to follow that tight timetable (almost certainly unattainable by mainline carriers), it can be tweaked as the day progresses.

If anything overruns or times change during the day, you make what we refer to as 'the 30-second phone call' and that's it: we rearrange the flight times, Customs, refuelling, catering and any other arrangements.

Customers on their first private jet flight often assume that they turn up at the main terminal of an airport and will be taken through some sort of 'fast track' security clearance procedure. They are frequently surprised to be directed not to the main building, but rather to the executive jet operator's private terminal.

These will almost invariably have a comfortable lounge - usually with Internet access - and where there may be just one or two other passengers awaiting their flights. If you are early you will be able to unwind and enjoy refreshments. However, likely as not, you will be met on arrival by your pilot, who, after a short briefing, will escort you straight to your waiting aircraft.

Security? This is one area where you can expect the same treatment to which you are accustomed at major airports, but with a slight twist. Your passport details will have been submitted to the operator in advance of the flight (preferably a few days before), who will have cleared them with the national border authorities. When you arrive at the airport there will still be a security check, but you're in a queue of one or two people, not 500. The whole process is therefore completed in minutes, making your time in the terminal reassuring but brief.

Onboard catering on an executive jet is another major difference over commercial airlines. You specify what you want.

If you have an early morning flight it will generally be a continental breakfast - a combination of toast, croissants, pastries and fruit. If you want something specific, that can be arranged. One of our passengers recently specified Godiva drinking chocolate for his children. This can be bought in very few places in the UK, but we were able to track it down in time for the flight (the children turned out to prefer juice that day!)

On small to mid-size executive jets, lunch will be a cold meal, normally sandwiches (although sushi is also a frequent request), but if a group of executives is travelling together on one of the larger business jets, these have hot food galleys and passengers can basically specify whatever they want in advance. There will be a full complimentary bar, although these days business passengers tend to stick to soft drinks.

People making their first private jet flight sometimes nervously ask if their pilots are trained to the same standards as airline crew. We've even been asked if the pilot has a licence!

The answer, of course, is an emphatic 'Yes'. We operate to exactly the same regulations and use the same licences as airlines; there's absolutely no difference whatsoever. It's a highly-regulated industry. Everyone gets checked regularly. All captains are highly-trained commercial pilots, many of whom have previously flown for airlines or the Air Force. Some companies, such as ourselves, also make a point of not using freelancers, which means that we can fully vouch for all our pilots.

And as for your arrival at the other end, here your operator can also help to make your life smoother. Whether it is booking a limousine to meet you at the aircraft steps, arranging an excellent hotel, or something more particular, your private jet company should be pleased to help. The fundamental point is that, as a private jet traveller, the world really revolves around you. Get used to the idea and take full advantage.

Patrick Margetson-Rushmore is chief executive of London Executive Aviation, a leading European charter operator. For more information visit
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