Photo: Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock

What It's Like to Fly Private

Airports + Flying
by Eben Diskin Aug 28, 2023

Until recently, nothing made me feel like a fraud quite like flying business class. I certainly didn’t have $8,000 to shell out for a lie-flat seat and complimentary toiletry kit, I was just a guy lucky enough to get an upgrade for a work trip. The whole flight I’d look around at the self-assured business class passengers in my cabin, the people who could actually afford this luxury, who actually belonged there, and felt starkly out of place. So imagine the intensity of my imposter syndrome when I got the chance to fly on a private jet.

I was on a work trip with a group of other writers, bouncing between France, Italy, and Spain checking out a series of hotels owned by the Melia brand. To make our country-hopping easier, Melia graciously lent us their corporate private jet. Some in the group expected a tiny plane that felt like a luxurious puddle-jumper, while others seemed to think we’d be boarding P. Diddy’s tricked out Gulfstream. I’ll admit, my head swirled with that scene from “Wolf of Wall Street” where a rowdy party rages around the flight attendant’s Champagne cart, and Leonardo DiCaprio has to get restrained with two seatbelts. The reality was much tamer, but no less memorable.


Ever wondered what it’s like to fly in a private jet?

♬ First Class – Jack Harlow

In recent years, private flights are increasingly in the conversation, even among those who could never afford their own plane. A number of companies — Jettly, XO, and JSX, to name a few — offer private jet charters with prices lower than you might think, depending on the destination.

For anyone who travels frequently, navigating an airport is like muscle memory. You pull up to the appropriate terminal, impatiently stand in the check-in and security lines, say a silent prayer that your bag doesn’t get pulled aside for inspection, speed-walk down a moving sidewalk toward your gate, find the most isolated seat possible, and squeeze in 10 minutes of distracted work before boarding. That’s why, when our cab pulled up to the airport, it was jarring when we hung an abrupt left, away from the main terminals, toward the “Italy FBO (Fixed Base Operator)” terminal.

This “terminal” was half the size of a typical airport lounge. Security was operated by one lady, who barely seemed to be paying attention to her little screen. We didn’t have to take our shoes off, our laptops out of our bags, or do anything else except walk through the metal detector. Apparently, if you can afford a private jet, you’re considered stable enough that you won’t bring weapons or bombs onboard. Past security there was a waiting room with comfy seats and basic amenities like water and snacks, and a meditative adult coloring book (do private jet owners really need to relax in this way?), which kept me busy for about 20 minutes. When the jet was ready, a private bus shuttled us directly onto the tarmac.

The plane itself felt more like stepping into a corporate suite at Trump Tower than a scene from “Wolf of Wall Street,” with brown-gold walls, comfortable seats (some with ottomans), a couch, and first class train-esque tables. The flight attendants weren’t merely there to bring water and stale pretzels, either. Though it was a pretty short flight (just under two hours), they offered us an arsenal of Champagne and coffee – lattes, cappuccinos, the works – and best of all, they didn’t make us sit through a tedious safety demonstration. Honestly, that’s probably the best part of flying private: passengers are treated like adults, rather than kids corralled into a classroom where they could be watched like they aren’t fully trusted.

Landing and disembarking was as seamless as boarding had been. We landed in Madrid, and were brought to the terminal by a plush Sky Valet bus. There, we waited in a comfortable lounge with an endless spread of chocolates on tap for our taxi to bring us to our hotel. It was easy to forget that a huge international airport, with its irritating procedures and relentless crowds, sat the next building over. Indeed, no matter how big your private jet is or how many amenities it has, the experience is really all about convenience. Arriving at a near-empty terminal, going through hassle-free security, and boarding directly from the tarmac. The frills are nice – and don’t get me wrong, the more frills the better – but one of the nicest parts of flying private jets were nothing but convenient air shuttles that let you skip the laborious airport experience, they’d still be worth the price tag.

Despite the distracting luxury of the experience, imposter syndrome still managed to creep in. Did I take a billion videos of this plane? Absolutely. Did I post those videos on Instagram with little explanation, giving the impression that private jets are a “ho hum” part of my everyday lifestyle? You bet. Do I feel as guilty about it as I thought I would? Honestly, no. Sometimes a little imposter syndrome is good for you. It helps keep you grounded (no pun intended). Gives you something to aspire to. So if you ever get a chance to fly private – do it.

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