Unless you are a rock star, billionaire business magnate or Guardian freelancer, you can probably only dream of travelling by private jet, and so your experiences of flying will no doubt involve brutal early-morning check-ins, the enforced surrendering of toiletries to scowling customs officers and always, always, always delays. But there is another way, one that also happens to be substantially better in every detail. Basically, you need to get yourself on one of those empty legs.
"Empty legs" are private jet flights where there happens to be nobody on-board, at least not until you come in. Private jet charter firms, realising that their aircraft have to return to base at some point and often do so without the human cargo they have just ferried somewhere swanky, have taken to offering these return "empty" legs for cut-price rates. They get to make some extra money out of someone's one-way trip, and the consumer gets a cut-price private jet experience – about which more later – and the flexibility to just show up 15 minutes before take-off, get right on board and fly.
The fares still aren't exactly cheap, but if you are filling an eight- to 10-seat light aircraft, they suddenly come tumbling down into the more affordable realms of the easyJet class.
So if you are at a loose end this week, you could, for example, be heading for Ajaccio, in Corsica, on Thursday for £250 a head, a saving of £13,350 on the normal price. And if you can wait a couple of weeks, there is a tasty-looking jaunt to Sion, in Switzerland, for just £600 a pop in the offing. The privatefly.com website compiles dozens and dozens of such empty-leg deals, including a section detailing all of the – substantially cheaper – short-haul mainland Europe options, which give the consumer the option of attempting an extreme private-jet version of InterRailing. The one downside, of course, is that empty legs are one-way and you have to get home again, but there are worse places to be marooned than, for example, the Côte D'Azur (flying today, from London, for £750 a head).
The big question, then: do you get free champagne once you are on board? "Yes!" says Mehdi Dialmy of Privatefly. "Catering will be available to you as it would be to a regular charter customer. There won't be flight attendants but you will have two pilots and one of them will serve you drinks, champagne and snacks."
Result! Which leaves us with the even bigger question: if you happen to be flying on, say, Rod Stewart's private jet, will they tell you that it's his? "No, we don't reveal that," says Dialmy. "Obviously, though, they do belong to famous people."
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