Flying on a private jet can be a luxurious experience that offers many benefits over commercial air travel

But is one of these benefits being able to skip customs?

Regardless if you’re flying private or commercial, customs is mandatory for all travelers when flying internationally, though private plane passengers will be able to skip the long lines.

Do Private Planes Go Through Customs?

As just mentioned, even if you are flying private, you still need to clear customs.

However, instead of actually waiting in a queue with hundreds of other people, one of the services that airports offer, include customs agents actually coming to you if you’re flying on a private plane, making the process much quicker and easier.

When you land, a customs officer may walk right on board the plane, check to make sure that all of the private plane’s passengers’ passports and forms are in order, and then leave, which can only take a few minutes.

CBP Preclearance

Private plane passengers will almost always need to go through customs when arriving into the U.S., though there are some very limited exceptions.

If you are flying to the U.S. from one of 15 locations in Europe, the Middle East or North America, customs can be skipped through the use of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance program.

This only applies when departing from the following locations:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Aruba
  • The Bahamas: Freeport or Nassau
  • Bermuda
  • Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, or Winnipeg
  • Ireland – Dublin or Shannon

You must also fly directly to the U.S. airport designated by CBP during the preclearance procedure.

Size of Airport

When flying internationally, there may be different rules and regulations depending on the airport you are flying into.

At smaller airports, special arrangements may often be made to accommodate private plane passengers who arrive from international destinations.

At larger airports, there are usually dedicated customs and immigration staff members who will always be available.

Either way, private plane passengers will need to be cleared once having landed.

Unlike with commercial air travel, private and charter flights get to enjoy going through private jet terminals (FBOs) where the queues can be skipped, though.

How Customs Works

Just because someone is flying private, it doesn’t mean that they are exempt from the rules of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Customs officials need to make sure that anyone entering the country has the right travel documents to be legally allowed into the country and check whether any illegal goods are being attempted to be brought in.

What Happens With Connecting Flights?

Private jet travelers usually don’t need to concern themselves with connecting flights or layovers, except when the plane might need to stop to refuel.

In any case, regardless if you’re flying commercial or private, customs is unnecessary for connecting flights as long as passengers don’t leave the airport and their bags are checked through to their final destination.

A Passport is Necessary When Flying Internationally

Regardless if you’re flying private or commercial, a passport is always required for international flights.

A visa may also be required depending on the country’s immigration requirements.

Typically, private jet operators ask each passenger for a copy of their passport and visa (if required) to create a passenger manifest.

This document will be used by the immigration services, the flight crew and the FBO to pre-clear passengers before the flight, though a passport will still need to be travelled with.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).