Should You Fly Private or Commercial On Your Next Trip?

By: John Welsh, Senior Vice President, Director, Commerce Family Office at Commerce Trust
People choose to fly private over commercial for a variety of reasons. While flying commercial has never been cheaper and more direct, it’s also become more of a headache for passengers. The benefits of commercial flights are often outweighed by the inconveniences: long security lines, baggage claim wait times, packed planes, cramped seats, no leg room, carry-on limits, additional fees, preferential perks of airline status memberships—the list goes on.

Private Jet
Although traveling by private aircraft still is not inexpensive compared to flying commercial, the many different options now available have significantly reduced the cost per flight over the past few years. In addition to competition and a plethora of options, travelers must determine which type of flying is best for their needs or family situation.

Who is Flying Private?

Flying private vs. flying commercial—no one option is perfect for all individuals and families in every circumstance. Likely your history of personal and business travel during your lifetime has given you more than enough experience and information about flying commercial. But before you pick up your phone to book a flight on a private jet or begin to explore ownership options, it’s important to understand the basics so you can ask the right questions. Hopefully the following insight highlighting the advantages of flying private will help.

Many travelers believe the two biggest conveniences of flying private are the time they save and the stress they avoid by not having to walk through the mazes of massive commercial airports. Most private flights take off and land at smaller private airports or at separate private terminals at larger commercial airports. Here are several more advantages to consider:
■ There are no security lines to stand in prior to takeoff—you can arrive minutes before your scheduled departure time and immediately board the plane. If you’re running late, you can usually delay your departure time.
■ If you want to schedule a flight, you can often do so within hours.
■ There are no baggage claims, restrictions, or fees.
■ You can bring most items on a plane (and even into the cabin), including sports gear, liquids, and pets, all without having to pay additional fees.
■ When you land at your destination, your luggage is easily pulled from the cargo space and handed to you. (The only limitation on most private flights is the weight restriction per plane—that’s typically determined prior to the day of departure based on type of plane, number of passengers, expected luggage, and length of flight).
■ Unlike commercial aircraft, smaller planes can fly into more than 5,000 local and remote airports around the country—therefore giving travelers more options and flexibility to access their final destinations.

It goes without saying flying on a private plane offers travelers the privacy and security that commercial flights do not. Whether it’s about wanting to avoid large crowds or being able to discuss confidential matters while flying, private airfare is the most discreet way to travel.

Not only can you control who the passengers are on your flight, many private jets also offer seating arrangements more similar to a living room than a commercial aircraft. This allows for a more comfortable traveling experience, and you can interact with other passengers as if you were at home or at the office. Privacy spaces on most aircraft models also enable travelers to stretch out and rest on the plane—something you would not be able to do on commercial flights, even in most domestic first-class cabins.

Most commercial airlines have reduced or cut out the amenities offered to passengers on domestic flights. Gone are the days when flying on an airplane was an event that travelers enjoyed and airlines regarded as an experience for passengers. Snacks, drinks, and leg room have been curtailed or eliminated. The level of service nowadays varies by airline and even by trip.

In contrast, private aviation companies offer a higher quality of service that’s more consistent across each company. Many offer onboard food and beverages, as well as the choice to order catered fare or bring your own food and beverages. They provide concierge services before, during, and after flights—and the low number of passengers onboard enables the on-flight attendants to provide high-level service.

This last advantage is perhaps one of the most important reasons to fly private right now: the ability to avoid large crowds in a commercial terminal and on a large plane. Many individuals have reduced or completely eliminated travel for fear of exposure to the coronavirus.

But by flying private, you can lower or eliminate your risk of potential exposure by limiting your time in smaller private terminals and controlling the passenger list. Additionally, many private aviation firms have invested in upgrades to filtration systems in their planes and subscribed to more frequent cleaning and disinfecting measures to help you feel as safe as possible.


Flying private is no longer just about owning your own aircraft or having limited access to a small charter fleet. In addition to full aircraft ownership—which can vary greatly in cost—there are now fractional ownerships, memberships, jet cards, and large charter fleets options available. Each option comes with its own cost structure and advantages. Download our complimentary Private Jet Travel Decision Guide to learn more.

If you have questions or would like more information on the specific details of flying private, contact Commerce Trust. Our team of professionals can help you explore the options best suited for your financial plan and lifestyle.

The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of November 17, 2020. This summary is intended to provide general information only, and may be of value to the reader and audience.

This material is not a recommendation of any particular investment or insurance strategy, is not based on any particular financial situation or need, and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor or investment professional. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax, insurance or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such.

Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Commerce Trust is a division of Commerce Bank.