Flying can still be as relaxing and convenient as it used to be in its glamorous heyday, says Captain Paul Day of Regency Air Charter
If Orville and Wilbur Wright could have known what flying would be like for most people today, especially post-9/11, they might well not have bothered. Their dream of being able to jump on to a plane and go any-where you like at the drop of a hat no longer holds true if you fly by scheduled airline.
First, you’ll need to turn up at the air-port several hours before your flight, however short the flight itself might be. Next, you’ll need to join one of those interminable queues at the baggage drop where, were it not for the absence of cattle-prods, you can experience what it feels like to be a Friesian at a livestock market.
Then there’s Security. Vital as it is in these turbulent times, there are few things less fun than having to turn out your pockets, remove your jacket, take off your shoes, hand over your laptop, your watch and your jewellery, plonk your possessions into plastic trays for everyone to see, then shuffle shoelessly through the metal detectors to wait for your tray to emerge before being reunited with your clothes and having to put everything back in its place again.
You might be lucky and only have a short wait at Passport Control, but you’ll probably face a five or 10-minute walk to your departure gate, cunningly routed through endless Duty-Free shops, only to wait again in a long queue while the airline officials check your documents before letting you board your flight. And that’s how a one-hour flight can take five hours out of your day. It’s also why flying by private jet is so popular with those who can afford it.
Imagine, if you will, that you want to fly to Monaco but you happen to live in the middle of the English countryside, several hours from the nearest airport. If you were to fly scheduled, that’s four hours of your life gone, just getting to and from the airport. Plus the two hours you’ll spend there before your flight.
But if you were to charter a private jet, you could be picked up by helicopter from your own lawn, or the nearest suitable piece of open ground, and flown to the airport in a fraction of the time it would have taken by car.
The only officialdom comes in the friendly shape of the private handling agent which will have pre-screened your passport, will ask you to walk through a detector (look, no queues!), and will check your baggage in moments.
You’ll be able to walk or be driven the short distance to your jet, get straight on to it, and be taking off almost immediately.
The next difference you’ll notice is in the aircraft itself. Your seat will be individual, sumptuous, probably leather, while the scheduled airlines’ mine’s-bigger-than-yours leg-room claims simply don’t apply, as there’s so much of it.
The cabin attendant will be able to cater for your every whim, while you can forget everything you thought you knew about airline food as you enjoy your favourite meals prepared just the way you like them. Private jet operators tend to use specialist catering companies acc-ustomed to satisfying very demanding people because, of course, you can’t pop outside to another restaurant if you don’t like what you’ve been given to eat at 30,000 feet!
Depending on the aircraft you choose, you might have full-sized beds in which to while away the flight in privacy while the cabin attendant keeps your children amused, or you could opt for one with room for a mid-air party if you prefer.
You won’t be sharing the onboard washroom with 300 other people you jetdon’t know, neither is there any danger at all of your pilot being locked out of the cockpit.
A good air charter broker will scour the entire market, finding the most suitable aircraft for your journey, at the best prices available. They can also find empty legs, which can save up to 75% on the cost of a private jet flight.
And as you pay to charter the aircraft, it costs the same whether you fly alone or take your family or friends with you, which can dramatically reduce the cost per head.
Captain Paul Day FRAeS is Managing Director of Gatwick-based Regency Air Charter and has been a commercial pilot for 23 years. You can discover more at the company website: www.regencyaircharter.com