Flying on a private jet bears very little resemblance to flying commercial. That’s precisely what everyone really likes about private travel. Very often you drive right up to your aircraft, step inside, they close the door behind you, and you leave. You eat exactly what you want, when you want it, and everyone is genuinely glad to see you. You come and go on your schedule, not someone else’s. You fly largely undisturbed, yet someone is always at your beck and call. You can drive directly to the jet and you can eat what you want. Yes, that epitomizes travel as it was meant to be.
Since private jet travel is (thankfully) quite different from commercial air travel, sometimes a few awkward situations may arise for new aircraft owners or, more frequently, those stepping up to the inner circle of a corporation that flies on "the jet." Consider the following issues before travel on your private jet to make those first trips a little smoother and more comfortable for everyone on board:
1. Before You Leave Home
Always pack your passport. Make sure it has not expired, or will not expire during the trip. Some countries require at least six months’ validity. If you are going to a country that requires a visa, be sure to have the correct visa. Even if you don’t anticipate traveling out of the country, pack your passport as plans may change very quickly when traveling. Not having a passport could prevent your entire group from entering a country.
A lack of proper documents can result in fines, jail or even deportation. Also, please note that passports shouldn’t be stamped in every country you visit, as some countries will not allow you to enter if it shows you visited certain other countries. For example, some Middle Eastern countries will bar your entry if you have an Israeli stamp.
2. Pet Peeves
Regarding documentation, it is important to remember that when you are planning a trip with a pet to a foreign country (or even Hawaii), there are entry requirements for pets, too. Those requirements vary from country to country and usually fall under agriculture regulations. Your vet often has that information, as well as the correct documents. Some countries don’t allow pets to deplane from a private jet unless the jet has a special agreement with the country (Scotland comes to mind), so be aware of those rules. Be aware that if a country does not allow your pet to deplane, his or her paws may not touch the tarmac even for a relief break. Penalties may include fines, quarantine or even death of the animal.
Also, many of the immunization requirements have a six-month lead time, so planning is key. Failure to have correct documentation can turn an entire aircraft around, so be sure to get it right before you leave. For more information on documentation, see my article titled "Practical Considerations When the Fur Flies: Flying with Pets in Business Aviation."
3. Assigned Seating
If you are traveling on a business trip for the first time with a group, there is often an unspoken seating hierarchy. If you can’t get with a trusted colleague and find out where you should sit (reads: where the principal likes to sit) then just hang back and board last. Just like a conference room, everyone has his or her favorite spot, and you don’t want to be in your boss’s seat for the next four hours.
4. Stow Your Luggage
Yes, of course. I would be happy to, but where? There are no overhead bins and no "seat in front of you," so think about what you need with you in the cabin for the flight. Pack one small carry-on with essentials and work for the flight and allow the rest to go to the back in baggage. You can tuck that bag behind your seat to keep it out of the way. Keep in mind there won’t be any baggage claim issues or delays. There are also pillows, blankets, snacks, and other amenities on board to keep you comfortable, so there’s very little you need to bring with you, unlike on a commercial flight.
5. In-Flight Dining
When it comes to food on a private jet, the sky is truly the limit. You can order food from your favorite restaurant or from world-famous caterers or chefs in every city you visit. You can even have an onboard chef. It seems most clients want great food at a great value. In that case, don’t overlook the corporate flight attendant. A trained, professional flight attendant has expert culinary skills. Why is that important? If you order food from your favorite restaurant in Chicago, and it is delivered in containers and you set it out for your clients in bowls, you can waste a great deal of your investment on poor presentation. A properly trained corporate flight attendant can re-create the presentation you would see in that restaurant.
You can also save money by having a corporate flight attendant trained with culinary skills shop a gourmet market for ingredients and then use them to prepare fresh meals on the aircraft. The taste will be superb, and the cost will be a fraction of what you would spend to have the flight catered. Of course, when you have a quick turn or travel where shopping and restaurants won’t work, then knowing the best caterers is a must. Once again, a well-connected corporate flight attendant knows the best in each city.
6. There Are Some Limits
It is easy to feel like you can call the shots on just about anything after you have been flying on your private jet for a while. There are still some things that are impossible, which may include:
Travel to a destination forbidden by regulation
Multiple schedule changes, which can result in denial of permits for a given region you are traveling in
Requests for items unavailable in remote locations (e.g., certain foods, glass bottles, plastic bottles)
Bringing into a country prohibited items, such as weapons, fish caught on a boat, animals or alcoholic beverages
Scheduling a departure before the crew has had minimum crew rest
Bringing more guests on the aircraft than it is allowed to carry in its charter certificate
Bringing last-minute guests who have not had documentation submitted for approval within time limits
Welcome to the world of private jet travel. It really is so civilized and makes so much sense. If you already know all of these little details, please do a colleague a favor and forward this article. Then, just sit back, relax and truly enjoy your next flight. This is air travel as it was meant to be.