Yes, You Can Actually Afford to Fly Private. Here’s How.

PHOTO: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Up your flying game by booking with one of these surprisingly low-cost private airlines.

Even if you barely fly, chances are you’re irked by TSA frisking, overpriced food court meals, long layovers, paying for baggage check, and the very real possibility of cramming into a middle seat. Good news: in recent years, better options have flown onto our radar.

When pricing out the cost difference between a commercial airline (like Delta Air Lines) versus a private airline, it’s important to analyze what’s included in the base fare. Items like free drinks, complimentary baggage check (restrictions do apply but typically two bags up to a certain weight are at no-cost), lounge access, and flying direct are worth a lot of money if you had to pay for those perks yourself.

And because time is money, consider this list of pros in the private category: fewer passengers on each plane, less time boarding the flight (plus getting to your final destination) and arriving at the airport closer to your flight’s departure time. Read on to learn more about how you can declare “I’m totally flying private” on your next trip.

Victor

Where: 40,000 airports in 157 countries

The key to saving money with Victor is to check out the “Empty Legs” flights. These are when an empty plane is scheduled to fly between destinations, sans passengers. But having a group of friends or family to fly with is what makes it a deal. For example, a recent flight on Jan. 17 between Florence, Italy, and Zurich, Switzerland, cost $4,817 for up to eight passengers. This breaks down to $602 per person. If this was a last-minute situation and gifted you with a higher level of service on the flight as well as additional time in both destinations (and no need to mess with a layover), the difference in price might easily cause you to spring for Victor. Also, can you really put a price on a private-jet ride with your BFFs?

INSIDER TIPSign up for “empty legs alerts.” And if you’re feeling guilty about using fossil fuels—don’t. All Victor flights carbon offset by 200%.

Surf Air

Where: California (Hawthorne, near Los Angeles; San Carlos, near San Francisco; Oakland; Santa Barbara and Truckee); and Texas (Austin, Dallas, and Houston)

Launched in 2013, Surf Air offers all-you-can-fly monthly memberships. Starting at $1,950 per month, if you fly often on the same routes that is a huge deal (launching soon are $995 monthly memberships within the Texas network). Arrive just 15 minutes before your flight’s departure time or linger earlier with access to a private member lounge complete with complimentary snacks and alcohol. Once onboard, enjoy the same amenities at no cost. Baggage check is also free.

INSIDER TIPStay tuned for a larger schedule debuting in March, with a lot more frequencies between current destinations.

JSX

Where: California (Burbank, Concord, Mammoth Lakes, Oakland, and Orange County); Las Vegas; Phoenix; and Seattle

Founded as JetSuiteX in 2016, technically JSX is not a private airline—it’s what the company dubs a “public charter operator” with “hop-on jet service” via private terminals. But with a fleet of 30-seat planes, it’s pretty darn close. You need only be at the private-planes area just 20 minutes before departure. Rates include free self-parking (at some locations; valet is a separate charge at all) and two checked bags, as well as private-lounge access (Wi-Fi, snacks, and Starbucks coffee are “on the house”) and once onboard you get—for no extra fee—snacks, drinks (including cocktails), and, by the end of this year, Wi-Fi.  Boarding with Fido? S/he is free to fly, too (no additional charge). If you’re looking for examples of sample fares, it’s $79 between Oakland and Phoenix, $89 between Burbank and Las Vegas, and $99 between Las Vegas and Orange County.

INSIDER TIPOn April 2, JSX launches service between Portland International Airport in Oregon and Seattle’s King County International-Boeing Field (starting at $49 one way).