What’s the difference between business aviation & private jet travel?

While customers and those outside the industry talk about ‘private jet’ travel, inside our industry we more often use the term ‘business aviation’.

There are other terms that are used more-or-less interchangeably too, including corporate aviation/jets; general aviation; private flights…

(To confuse matters further, we also have the sub-categories of private ownership, charter, fractional ownership, and seat sharing/shuttles! Here’s an explanation of the difference between these).

Busy airport apron with blue sky


Lately I’ve been having more and more conversations about this – how we should describe ourselves as an industry. You might ask if it really matters, what’s in a name after all?

But unclear terminology really doesn’t help one of our industry’s main marketing challenges: A lack of understanding about what we offer, and how we offer it.

In my experience, ‘business aviation’ is a term easily confused with business travel in general, including airline flights. It also implies that the majority of private jet customers are flying for business reasons, when in Europe that’s not the case.

Why do we use the term ‘business aviation’?

The term business aviation was widely adopted to underline the value of private aviation as an efficiency tool, and to avoid using the term ‘private jet’ – with its associations of luxury and frivolity that many in the industry have tried to get away from.

During the last few years of austerity, that’s been understandable. And it’s been helpful to to balance out the misconception that ‘private jet’ users are all billionaires or oligarchs.

Glass of champagne on plane 650x683

The term ‘private jet’ is often associated with a frivolous champagne lifestyle.

But we are now in a new era of growth. August was a record-breaking month in Europe, when flight demand finally exceeded pre-recession levels. And our challenge as an industry is how to accelerate this going forwards.

At PrivateFly we set out from the beginning to make private jet travel more transparent and accessible – including online pricing and lots of informative content.

I chair the broker sub-committee for EBAA (European Business Aviation Association) and it’s great to see their investment in campaigns to increase understanding of the efficiency benefits of private jet travel, and the economic value our industry generates. (Just as NBAA have undertaken in the US with their ‘No Plane No Gain’ campaign).

Business versus leisure?

Corporate or business demand is hugely important to our industry. But I don’t think we should hide the level of leisure flights alongside – both are important target audiences. Today’s leisure customer is not just the super rich stereotype. There are also families willing to spend a bit more than airline prices to avoid the commercial airport experience; celebrating a milestone birthday; travelling to a remote spot not served by airlines.

And the line between business and leisure use is changing too. Entrepreneurs and business owners may increasingly combine a business trip with a family holiday. I know this very well, having spent five weeks in the US myself this summer, taking my family along too for a holiday at the end of it. (Read more about my extended trip to the US in Real Business).

This is a debate that will continue, and I don’t see the term ‘business aviation’ going away any time soon. But I do think there is a need for the industry to clarify what we offer – and to become more transparent about it.

PrivateFly offers private jet charter to any global destination, with 24/7 advice from our expert Flight Team. Search for prices online, or contact us on +44 (0)20 7100 6960.