We get tons of calls from people thinking that they’ll get to fly private for a couple hundred dollars with an empty leg. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is not the case. While this might not be the news you want to hear, the myth and rumor surrounding empty leg flights needs to be dispelled and replaced with facts.
What is an Empty Leg?
Let’s start with defining an empty leg. An empty leg occurs when a private aircraft needs to move to a new destination but has no client/fare. The operator of the aircraft tries to make up the loss incurred in moving the empty aircraft by selling the flight at a discounted rate.
This is where the confusion comes in.
A discounted rate does not mean that the flight now costs a couple hundred dollars, but rather a discount off the regular price for the flight.
What does an Empty Leg cost?
Let’s take the example of a super midsize jet that is based in Los Angeles, taking a client to New York and needs to return to LA for its next client but doesn’t have a fare for the trip from NY to LA.
The full-price fare on this super midsize jet from LA to NY is $30k. For the return from NY to LA the operator offers the empty leg for $25k. This is a savings of $5k and who doesn’t like to save $5k?
Many people who call us are put off when they hear that an empty leg flight still costs $25k. Their stance is that a little money is better than nothing. For the aircraft’s operator this is not the case.
$2k of revenue on a $25k flight makes a nominal contribution towards covering operating costs. At the same time, the operator must now assume the liability and work associated with carrying passengers. Further, it devalues their service.
This is not to mean you can’t get great deals with empty legs. A couple of the empty legs we recently secured for our clients:
- 8-passenger Pilatus Turboprop from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
– Full fare $5k, discounted to $2k! 60% discount
- 8-passenger Citation CJ2 Light Jet from Los Angeles to Dalla.
– Full fare $22k, discounted to $15k! 32% discount!
- 8-passenger Hawker 800XP Midsize Jet from New York to Palm Beac.
– Full fare $18k, discounted to $12k! 35% discount
- 12-passenger Gulfstream G-IV from Kona, HI to Los Angeles.
– Regularly $50k, discounted to $30k! 40% discount
How much of a discount can I expect?
Each operator sets the prices and discounts for their aircraft and this can vary greatly from operator to operator.
Generally speaking, smaller aircraft are able to more deeply discount their empty legs because their operating costs are lower. However, since they are more affordable to begin with, there are usually fewer empty legs available on small aircraft because they have an easier time filling their schedule to avoid empty legs.
Large aircraft often comprise the bulk of the empty leg market. Due to their high operating costs these aircraft start at a higher price point and are not as easily discounted. For many trips these large aircraft are more plane than necessary, and more costly even as an empty leg than the appropriate aircraft at full price.
For example, if you are two passengers looking for an empty leg for a three-hour flight, while an empty leg might be available on a heavy jet, most likely a light jet at full fare will be less expensive.
When should you plan on taking an Empty Leg flight?
The last thing to share about empty leg flights, and this is important, is that they are offered (for the most part) on a last-minute basis. Once an operator finds out that they need to move their aircraft with no fare, they will try to fill that flight with a full price fare. The deepest empty leg discounts are found in the days prior to the aircraft’s departure. If you are comfortable with waiting until the last minute to book your flight, or plan a spontaneous trip, you will have the best luck finding a discounted empty leg.
ClickJetz leads with Empty Legs
Whenever we book a flight for our clients we ALWAYS check for available empty legs – you don’t even have to ask! We love using empty legs because we can save money for our clients which makes them happy and making our clients happy, makes us happy – it’s a WIN-WIN. Check out our empty legs alerts page for a freshly updated list of our featured empty legs for that last minute trip!
More questions about Empty Legs?
As with private flights in general, there are many nuances to empty legs so if you still have questions please reach out. We love to share our knowledge of private charter and are always happy to hear from you!