There is a whole word of flying separate to commercial, scheduled flights.

Charter flights are growing in popularity due to their comfort and convenience – and you might have already been on one without knowing.

But we’ll get to that later.

In short, a charter flight is an unscheduled flight whereby you can determine the departure and destination times and locations.

What is a Charter Flight?

Commercial flights operated by airlines like Delta, Southwest, United etc. stick to a very rigid, pre-determined schedule.

But charter flights are flights that offer much more flexibility, as the person or people chartering the plane can determine the departure and destination times and locations, as they are the ones renting the plane for themselves.

In some instances, the people who charter the plane can even decide on what meals will be served onboard, which will be better than the bad tasting airplane food on commercial flights.

Chartered flights are ideal for passengers who want complete control over their travel itinerary.

Of course, this comfort, convenience and luxury all come at a premium.

Types of Chartered Flights

Private Charters

When you think of charter flights, you probably think of private charters.

Private charters are when an individual, group, or company rents an entire aircraft, which means that the seats on the plane are not sold individually or are on sale to other parties.

Public Charters

Earlier we said that you might have been on a charter flight without actually knowing it.

This applies to public charters.

Public charters are those that are offered by airlines that have booked a block of seats to cater to the needs of another company, such as a travel agent.

Affinity Charters

Affinity charters have seats that are sold separately, with each passenger paying their own fare individually.

Affinity charters are popular with societies and sports clubs, such as sports or music fans going to an event.

Cargo Charters

Cargo charters are used when cargo needs to get to a location quickly, such as food supplies and urgent medical supplies.

Cargo charters are therefore outfitted for transport of goods, not people.

Charter Flights Aren’t the Same as Private Flights

Chartered flights aren’t necessarily the same as private flights.

There are several different types of charter flights, with private charters being the type most associated with private air travel.

Chartered Flights Are Expensive

Chartering a private jet costs between $1,000 to $15,000 per flight hour depending on the type of jet, though it can cost over $30,000 an hour if you want to charter a Boeing or Airbus plane.

  • Very Light Jets: $1,100 – $3,000 per flight hour
  • Small Light Jets: $2,000 – $4,000 per flight hour
  • Super Light Jets: $3,500 to $5,000 per flight hour
  • Midsize Jets: $4,000 to $6,500 per flight hour
  • Super Midsize Jets: $5,000 to $7,500 per flight hour
  • Heavy Jets: $6,500 and $8,000 per flight hour
  • Ultra-Long-Range Heavy Jets: $9,000 to $15,000 per flight hour

The cost of chartering a flight also has several other variables, including:

  • Number of passengers
  • Departure and destination
  • Stops along the way
  • Return trip date
  • Single vs. round trip

Related: How Much Does a Private Jet Cost?

You Can Usually Avoid Airport Security on Charter Flights

According to TSA regulations, any charter jet that carries more than 61 passengers requires the passengers to go through normal airport security.

Otherwise, passengers on charter flights go through private jet terminals (FBOs) that feature a much faster security process due to skipping lengthy queues.

Chartered Flights and Scheduled Flights Have Several Differences

There are a few key differences between charter flights and scheduled flights.

  • Scheduled flights are scheduled well in advance
  • Scheduled flights operate on a continuous basis
  • Scheduled flights are cheaper
  • Charter flights give you the option of selecting the aircraft to fly
  • Charter flights enable you to control a lot of the minor details of the flight, such as the meals served
  • Charter flights enable you to skip lengthy queues.
  • Charter flights let you get to the airport later.

Airlines That Offer Chartered Flights

In the U.S., popular charter airlines include:

  • Atlas Air
  • Berry Aviation
  • CSI Aviation
  • Elite Airways
  • National Airlines
  • NetJets
  • Omni Air International
  • Reliant Air
  • Skymax
  • Swift Air
  • World Atlantic Airlines

Chartering a plane from major airlines like Delta, Southwest, United or American Airlines is also possible.

Charter Flights Are Safe

Commercial air travel is remarkably safe – as it chartering private jets.

The caveat is that, the smaller the plane, the worst the safety statistics are, in the sense that small planes are involved in more accidents, and have a higher number of fatalities per million hours flown.

Charter Flights Can Have 3 – 500+ Seats

The planes used for charter flights can contain as few as three, up to over 500 seats.

It all depends on the needs of the person/people chartering the plane and how much they are willing to pay.

After all, you can even charter a Boeing 747 at around $30,000 an hour, which is Boeing’s largest long-haul passenger jet with 524 seats.

Should You Charter a Flight or Fly First Class?

Chartering a flight and flying first class are both very expensive and out of the reach of most people.

But if you’re fortunate enough to be able to choose between the two, you should know that:

Private Jets

  • Better if your philosophy is time is just as valuable as money
  • Better if you want more individualized amenities
  • Better for privacy
  • Better for flexibility

First Class

  • Better if you want to save money
  • Better if you want to be guaranteed of amenities
  • Better for peak travel periods, as it might be more difficult to charter at these times
  • Better for networking

Types of Planes Used for Chartered Flights

Charter airlines and private jet companies offer a range of planes to suit their customers needs.

The types of jets include:

  • Very Light Jets – e.g. Embraer Phenom 100
  • Small Light Jets – e.g. Dassault Falcon 10
  • Super Light Jets – e.g. Gulfstream G100
  • Midsize Jets  – e.g. Gulfstream G150
  • Super Midsize Jets – e.g. Bombardier Challenger 350
  • Heavy Jets – e.g. Gulfstream 350
  • Ultra-Long-Range Heavy Jets – e.g. Gulfstream V

It’s also possible to charter the most commonly used planes from Boeing and Airbus, like the Boeing 747 and Airbus 320.

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).