Which are Better: Large or Smaller Airports?

While smaller airports often cannot accommodate commercial airliners, is the opposite true for bigger airports accepting private jets?

Although the bigger, international airports feature multiple runways, an array of terminals, and generally more space, they’re not always the most ideal landing or take-off options for private jet charter flights.

We explore the reasons why big airports often don’t work for private jets:

IN THE HOLDING STACK

Rarely will an aircraft be granted a straight “in,” without delay, on approach to a large airport. Most likely (like all other aircraft) a private jet will be sent to the holding pattern due to airport congestion.

While holding is a normal procedure, it costs Fractional and Card Holder customers a large amount of extra expense as they are billed per minute on the actual flight time.

Despite not costing PrivateFly customers anything financially, holding patterns cost time – one of the main reasons to fly privately.

Aviation traffic is real!

ON THE APPROACH

Whilst a private jet will mostly fly at the same speed as an airliner in the cruise phase of the flight, smaller jets tend to fly slower approaches to land. Left without any Air Traffic restrictions, this would result in the faster, larger airliner getting too close behind the smaller aircraft – the equivalent of tailgating a car!

So Air Traffic Control often tell private jet pilots to keep their speed at or above 200kts until four nautical miles away from the runway.

This is typically not an issue for most experienced pilots, but the junior guys will find that the pace of events in the last minute before landing can be a bit hectic. Flying above 200kts normally requires the aircraft to be clean without flaps, landing gear, or speed brakes extended. Keeping the speed fast on the approach means this final configuration changes, and pre-landing checks need to be expedited prior to landing.

LANDING

You would think landing a smaller jet on a longer runway would be no problem, but the problem arises after you land. Landing just 30 seconds behind you might be a Boeing 777, who might be very upset if they had to “go around” because you didn’t get off the runway in time.

Take off and landing procedures differ depending on the aircraft.

So once a small aircraft lands on a long runway at an international airport, it is time to get off quickly. This technique involves using fast turn offs and not breaking; often pilots will actually accelerate after landing to quickly get off the runway.

TAXI

Taxiing a private jet can be a highly intensive period with multiple opportunities for making embarrassing mistakes. While commercial airline pilots become very familiar with the small number of airports they use, there are over 4,000 private jet airports in the US, so often private jet pilots are given very complicated and long taxi instructions by unsympathetic air traffic controllers in the larger airports.

PARKING

Surprisingly, larger airports are often not as well equipped to handle private jets as smaller airfields due to their extensive parking! Because of how the larger airports are designed, their parking lots can often be quite far away from the private jet FBO. So if you’re staying overnight, you might be parked in the middle of a cargo area or longer term parking.

This can complicate the dream of stepping off your jet and directly into your vehicle!

A seamless journey from air to land is more probably in a smaller airport.

CUSTOMS

Larger airports frequently have long lines for customs, security, check-in and even baggage drop. Avoid the wasted hours by using a smaller airport, where you usually do not have regular customs and certainly no long security lines.

ROAD DELAYS

Smaller airports can often get you closer to your final destination – so why sit in traffic coming out of a major airport?

CONCLUSION

At PrivateFly, we generally favor the small or regional airports over larger international airports. From customer service to speed – smaller airports tend to come out on top.

To discuss which airport is best for your next private jet flight, or to arrange a personalized private jet charter, contact us or call our 24/7 Flight Team at (866) 726-1222.