Since the inception of the first Learjet, private aviation has grown leaps and bounds. Once a small fragile industry, private aviation is now accountable to over half of all flight activity around the globe. The continued advancement has ignited a fiery demand from travelers seeking cost effect ways to take part in the action. Nevertheless, the colossal obligation of owning your own private jet is still elusive and moreover off-putting to many. If you are like the many in search of the ideal way to fly private, chartering presents the ideal compromise of both price and experience and better yet avoids the pitfall that can be aircraft ownership. Being that you are reading this, you likely understand this frustration. So without elaborating further, how do you find an economically priced charter flight?
Empty legs are the result of charter flights that have been booked as a one-way trip. The impending return trip is then available and must be filled if the company operating the flight expects to gain a return on the original one-way flight. In many cases, these open routes or “empty legs”, as many regard, are critical to fill for the aircraft operator to meet their bottom line. In a desperate effort to return the jet home these flights often become available at prices well below industry standard. This begs the question: How do you find an empty leg charter?
1. Use an experienced air charter broker.
Charter brokers maintain constant industry oversight and are usually the first to know when flights become available. They also have a keen understanding of what trips should be priced at and are generally able to share specific insight about operators that may not be immediately available to travelers. Additionally, brokers offer the added benefit of being able to arrange and coordinate other aspects of your travel and may also get better rates as opposed to doing it yourself.
2. Check operator websites.
Many operators actually advertise empty legs directly on their website. By checking multiple charter airlines that are located at your destination, you may just get luck enough to find one that is looking to get home from your location. Though, this is often chancy being that operators don’t want to sell trips below market value, it never hurts to do your own research and even make a few calls!
3. Be flexible.
Empty leg flights are very specific to time frames. Expecting an aircraft to always be available, heading exactly where your going, and always on the same timetable as you is always an unrealistic pursuit. You will have better luck researching several air carriers and subsequently planning around multiple potential flights and nearby destinations. This gives you a back door in the case that one of your options doesn’t pan out quite how you anticipated.
4. Pick popular destinations and fly around peak travel periods.
I cannot stress this enough. Empty legs are always available nearing big events and in large metropolitan areas. Consider the Super Bowl as a prime example or maybe even a large corporate convention that is popular among business travelers. Your timing is almost as important as your destination. Popular airports are bound to have empty legs, the challenge is locating one headed in your direction and around the same time.
5. Do your research!
This is undoubtedly the biggest blunder of those unfamiliar to air charter. Never get suckered into what you may believe to be a “good price”. Always call around and cross compare multiple quotes, never settling on a trip until you are 100% confident that there are no other options. Sometimes, even chancing it to wait to the last minute on a trip can reward a large payoff as many operators will not reveal an empty leg until shortly before an anticipated departure. If you fly a particular trip often, know what you usually pay and compare that price to similar aircraft. In any case, doing your research is always the best strategy to isolating viable empty leg options.