July 21, 2015

Peak season for empty legs

In the summer period, discounted empty leg flights reach their peak within Europe.

This is simply because empty leg availability is a reflection of overall market demand – the more ‘standard’ private jet charters there are, the more repositioning flights are required. And in the summer, we see a huge surge of private jet activity, due to additional leisure flights.

Empty legs can represent exceptional value, compared to normal private jet prices. And even sometimes prove cheaper than an equivalent airline cost per person. But they do require flexibility and come with different conditions to a usual private charter.

What is a private jet empty leg?

When a private jet is repositioning for its next booked flight, a new, one-way flight comes about, which has no booked passengers on it. This is called an empty leg – or sometimes an empty sector. As the aircraft is flying empty to its next location, the owner or operator is often prepared to offer this one-way flight at a big discount. This is frequently a fraction of the full price, as much as 75% off.

So if an aircraft on the ground in Paris is booked for a flight from Nice Cote D’Azur to Olbia, it will need to fly down to Nice to collect the passengers and begin its booked journey. So the Paris to Nice repositioning flight would be a potential empty leg.

Obviously the operator of the aircraft would prefer to sell this as a full price charter. But unlike airline flights, which are scheduled very tightly to avoid flying aircraft empty wherever possible, the private jet market is highly fragmented, with bespoke routes and schedules arranged to fit each customer’s needs.

So in reality, it is often very difficult to sell this flight to a private jet customer at full price. The operator may therefore be happy to cover their costs by selling it as an empty leg.

What do empty legs cost?

There are some excellent offers emerging as private jet activity starts to rise in Europe. We’re currently offering a flight on 5th August, from Munich to Liverpool, for £1,960 for a 9-seater aircraft – instead of £13,890. If you filled all the seats, that’s a cost per person of just £218. Here are some other examples of current offers for European flights:

From To Aircraft Seats Date Price
Rome Ciampino Nice Cote d’Azur Cessna 510 Mustang 4 01-Aug-15 £1 400
(RRP £3 500)
Nice Cote d’Azur London Stansted Cessna 510 Mustang 4 05-Aug-15 £2 700
(RRP £6 500)
London Farnborough Avignon Caumont Beech 390 Premier 6 09-Aug-15 £3 850
(RRP £8 540)
London Biggin Hill Ibiza Cessna 510 Mustang 4 12-Aug-15 £3 250
(RRP £8 110)
Mahon Menorca Bristol Intl Cessna C525 Citation CJ2 6 04-Sep-15 £2 750
(RRP £11 030)

See full empty legs list

It’s possible to see prices drop even lower than this so it can pay to keep a close eye on the latest empty leg offers. Last summer we saw flights from London to Cannes on offer at £1,200 for a 7-seater aircraft – or from just £171 per person. That worked out less than a low cost airline flight. See more European empty legs, USA empty legs and global empty legs.

What are the disadvantages of an empty leg flight?

While you still experience the same efficiency, VIP service levels, comfort and privacy, an empty leg doesn’t offer the same advantages as a normal private jet flight. Offers are coming and going all the time and can be subject to last minute changes – if the original charter (which has created the need to reposition) changes its departure time for example, this would have a knock on impact on the empty leg.

And of course private jet empty legs are usually one-way flights. While a return flight can occasionally be matched up, you are most likely to enjoy a private jet experience in one direction, but then need to make a different way home.

But if you are prepared to be flexible; book at the last minute; and travel as a group, it can be a way to experience a private jet flight for a price close to that usually seen on an airline ticket.

How can I find out about the latest empty leg offers?

At PrivateFly, we’re integrated with over 7,000 private jet aircraft globally, and we offer empty legs all over the world.

We’re now integrated with the scheduling software for many leading, global operators, which allows us to see a live feed of their available empty legs – as well giving instant pricing and booking for standard private charter flights (see A new era for online private jet booking).

The best way to keep up to date with the latest empty leg offers? Download the PrivateFly app, which allows you to search for empty legs by airport.

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