UAE: Is it cheaper to fly in First Class or a private jet charter?

Private jet charter pricing fluctuates depending on factors such as aircraft size, distance and travel dates


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Tue 2 Jul 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 2 Jul 2024, 10:12 PM

Demand for private jet charters usually grow by up to 40 per cent during the summer as a lot of UAE families and individuals fly to destinations that offer cooler climes.

Industry insiders say the demand for group sharing of around four to eight people has grown significantly, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, owing to health and safety concerns about travel in commercial flights.

Moreover, private jet charter costs can also be competitive when compared to First Class ticket prices of commercial aircraft for long-distance flights.

Paul James, director of sales and aircraft management at DC Aviation Al-Futtaim VIP Terminal, said there is a “significant uptick in demand during the summer” to Europe, with many individuals and families opting for private jets to reach their holiday destinations.

“In the Middle East, the peak demand occurs just before summer, as people depart the region for Europe and other locations. For European destinations, we witness a 30-40 per cent increase in demand for private charter jets during the summer season. For the Middle East, the peak demand occurs just before the summer, right after schools close for the holidays,” James said.

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At the outset of summer, a large number of families and high net-worth individuals from the UAE fly out to spend vacations in Europe, the US and other popular destinations, resulting in a spike in demand for private jet charters.

Adam Neave, head of charter at Gama Aviation, said there are numerous periods across the calendar where the demand peaks, but the summer getaway and the subsequent return home is when bookings surge.

“The demand for aircraft charters is impacted by geopolitical factors and therefore no two years are alike. Indications are that we are likely to see a repeat increase for the summer season. We have seen a steady increase in charter enquiries towards the end of the second quarter,” he said, adding that demand is coming from sporting events such as Germany Euros, Paris Olympics and arts and entertainment giants utilising aircraft for tour itineraries.

Comparable with First Class

Private jet charter pricing fluctuates depending on factors such as aircraft size, distance and travel dates. Those who opt for private jet travel prioritise time efficiency, aiming to bypass lengthy security lines, layovers, and rigid schedules associated with commercial flights. Time is of the essence for these individuals.

Paul James
Paul James

Moreover, private jets offer the advantage of flying directly to smaller airports situated closer to the final destination, thereby eliminating the need for ground transportation upon arrival.

Neave said the pricing of private jet charters only becomes comparable when looking to access remote locations or maintaining schedules that just are not possible on commercial airlines.

“As a price point, there are premiums associated with exclusive use of an aircraft and the luxury of travelling to your own schedule away from the noise of the commercial market sector.”

Paul James added that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted a growing trend of group chartering of private jets, owing to concerns about health and safety in commercial flights.

“Sharing the cost among a group involving typically 4-8 people, depending on the aircraft size, can make private jets surprisingly competitive for vacations. Dividing the charter cost can be comparable or even cheaper than first-class commercial tickets, especially for long-distance trips,” added James.

How costly is it to fly in a private jet?

Flying in a private jet charter is approximately 10 times costlier than travelling in a First-Class flight in a commercial airline.

James revealed that travelling with a commercial airline from Dubai to London or Paris can cost between Dh18,400 and Dh36,800. However, chartering a private jet for this route ranges from Dh184,000 to Dh312,500 depending on the aircraft size.

However, First Class commercial airlines’ fares could go much higher during the weekends or in case of late bookings, when seat occupancy is quite high. When Khaleej Times analysed Dubai to Paris airfares for next week, rates were listed as high as Dh44,000 on the local airlines’ website for a First Class seat.

Popular destinations

London, Paris, Nice, Cannes, Geneva, Zurich, Munich and island paradises such as Maldives, Male, Mauritius and Seychelles are the popular destinations during summer, James said.

Adam Neave said outside of standard travel for leisure, the global sporting events of this summer will see increased demand for Germany due to the UEFA European Championships and Paris for the Olympics Games.

“Greece and Italy, in particular, are seeing high demand this year and the Mediterranean always remains popular. So much so that there are severe restrictions that we have to account for in terms of airport slots and parking, alongside newly instigated state tax charges on flights to certain locations. South of France remains a constant high-demand location from our client base,” said the head of charter at Gama Aviation.


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