If you’ve been flying via commercial airlines, you’re probably used to other passengers who may have been raised by wolves—pushing, shoving, crowding and being self-centered once on the aircraft. Commercial flights seem to bring out their worst.
Private flights are the difference between eating at a fast-food joint and dining on linen with silver service at a fine restaurant. Here are some tips to make sure no one thinks you have a wolf in your past.
Show Respect: If there’s one single tip for proper private jet use, it comes from A.J. Becker of Elite Air in Tampa, who says, “These are privately owned aircrafts, so they are an extension of the owner. Treat them as though you were in their living room: no feet on the seats, no spilled red wine. Respect the airplane like the owner’s home.”
Be on Time: Flying by private jet may be about convenience, but don’t throw punctuality away. Arriving at least 30 minutes before departure shows respect to your flight crew. Private flights have somewhat flexible departure times, and note the word “somewhat.” Private flights may have to fit into specific departure (or arrival) windows at some airports. Don’t make them miss that window, or you’ll regret it. When boarding, greet the crew members and ask (and remember) their names so you can have a friendly and professional relationship.
Special Requests: Make these early to your charter service, whether it’s a dietary restriction, a preferred wine or a newspaper, so your company will be ready for you. You can ask for anything from a Big Mac to Dom Perignon with caviar on toast points. Special décor too: I was on a charter near my birthday and boarded to find the cabin decorated with balloons and signs. Fun!
Seats: Private charters rarely assign seats, but ALWAYS let your hosts board first and choose their favorite seats.
What to Wear: Consider your trip. Business trips suggest a smart-casual look, leisure trips allow more freedom. If you’re flying as someone’s guest, be respectful of your host. Flip-flops and shorts are for the beach, not private jets. Same for sweatpants or gym clothes. Think casual-chic.
Booze: Yes, you can have alcoholic beverages, but consume responsibly. Never try to sneak booze on board; turn it over to the flight crew before boarding and allow them to serve it. They can keep it cool and provide ice in the glasses as well. No guzzling from bottles, ever.
Restroom: Since you will have others aboard, keep the lavatory (head) clean and tidy. Use the charter base before you depart.
Flight Crew: It’s fine to talk to the flight crew and pilots, but not during busy times such as take-off or landing. Wait until cruising altitude, and the pilots can come aft to answer questions.
Children: Make sure you have enough entertainment choices to keep them occupied and quiet. The cabin crew are never…ever…to be considered babysitters.
Pets: First, confirm your flight is pet-friendly. Make sure your pet is groomed before the flight—no muddy paws or dog hair on the seat. Monitor the fluid intake too, so there are no mishaps.
Luggage: Private jets are smaller than commercial aircraft, so check what is allowed on each aircraft—weight restrictions and number of bags. Usually, one or two small carry-ons, but ask beforehand about limits in the cargo hold. If you’re planning a ski trip to Aspen, check about getting your skis stowed. Shopping trip to Rodeo Drive or Worth Avenue? Plan ahead so you can carry your shopping bags.
Documents: Always carry your documents, which usually means ID, driver’s license and passport. Your charter service will provide you with a list of any visas or medical paperwork.
Tipping: Tip the crew if you’re happy with their service. A gratuity is always appreciated, and don’t forget the captain and first officer. Ask your charter service what would be appropriate for the length of your flight and type of aircraft.
Behave Respectfully: Treat the crew and other guests with respect and courtesy. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way on private flights.
Silence is Golden: Don’t play music or movies loudly and remember that others may want blessed quiet.
Enjoy being a jet-setter, but leave the wolf at home.
Chris Caswell is an award-winning writer and the former editor of several yachting magazines. He has appeared on Oprah as a boating lifestyle expert and hosted the Marine Voyager series on the Speed Channel.