Everything You Need to Know About Private Jet Etiquette

by Richard Zaher / Oct 12, 2019

Private Jet Flight Booked
The essential guide to private jet etiquette

Your private jet is booked. It’s finally happening. You’re preparing to get your first ever taste of flying in a VIP private jet just for you.

But then you ask yourself: how should I behave on a private jet?

It’s a valid question. Just as there are different rules between flying in economy or business class, so too are there big changes between flying commercial and private.

Don’t worry – we have all the hints and tips you need to fit right in.

From picking out your luggage and clothes to offering your pilot a tip, here’s the essential guide to private jet etiquette:

Dress code

Dress code on private jets
There’s nothing wrong with wearing a pair of jeans on a casual flight

When you’re on a private jet, there’s no dress code, per se.

But you will be expected to dress appropriately.

If you’re meeting somebody on business, dress formally. For men, this means a shirt, trousers, and dress shoes – or a full suit. For ladies, a smart pantsuit or dress will work well.

On the other hand, if you’re flying with friends and family, it’s fine to go a bit more casual. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a pair of jeans on a casual flight.

Yet it’s still frowned upon to go super casual. Regardless of who you’re flying with, the following clothing should be avoided at all times:

  • Sweatpants
  • Vests
  • Gym clothes
  • Flip-flops

Booking

One perk of flying private is that you can book your aircraft at short notice

But, generally speaking, you should provide as much notice as possible.

Booking the perfect flight takes time. The more time you provide to source the ideal aircraft the better.

If you can, you should give us 1-2 months’ notice. This means plenty of time to finetune your flight and give you the best experience possible.

However, if you require an aircraft at short notice, this can be arranged. We can organize flights in as little as three hours for Paramount Private Jet Card Members.

Seating

Seating choice on private jets
The owner of the aircraft or lead passenger will board the aircraft first and select their seat. Other passengers will then occupy the remaining seats.

When you fly commercial, you know your exact seat in advance, right down to whether you’ll be on the aisle or wedged between other flyers.

But is this the case when you fly private? Or can you sit wherever you like?

The answer is a mixture of the two. Whilst you won’t have a specifically assigned row and seat number, you will be expected to sit in a certain seat for the majority of the flight.

Traditionally, the lead passenger will board the aircraft first and select their seat. Other passengers will then occupy the remaining seats as recommended by the lead passenger.

If you’re very close with the people you’re flying with, these rules can be relaxed. But in general, for the lead passenger to choose their seat first.

Tipping & charges

Our customers frequently ask us whether or not they should tip staff on-board their private jet. And the answer is that they should do so if they’re happy with the service they receive.

If the cabin crew is friendly, feel free to leave them a tip. But you should also consider tipping the pilot. Contrary to popular belief, many private jet pilots earn less than expected. Plus, they have a number of tasks that they take care of behind the scenes. This includes:

  • Loading your bags onto the aircraft
  • Flight planning
  • Cleaning and maintenance
Private jet etiquette - tipping pilots
If you’re happy with the service, tip the cabin crew and pilots

Not sure how much to tip? There’s a lot of leeway, and it comes down to your personal circumstances. If you’re on an expensive flight and really enjoyed it, you could tip anything up to $1,000. But, for modest flights, there’s nothing wrong with a smaller tip, starting from about $20.

Be aware that you may also face extra charges based on what happens on-board. Icy weather? The aircraft will need de-icing before takeoff. Pooch had an accident? That carpet will have to be shampooed once you’ve landed.

If your flight requires additional work, extra charges may be added. This will always be explained to you when you receive your final invoice.

Luggage

When you fly commercial, there are hundreds of passengers squeezed into a limited area. Usually, you can only bring one small piece of hand luggage on-board.

So, when you fly private, surely you can bring as much luggage as you like, right?

Well, not exactly.

Private jet luggage etiquette
Usually, you can only bring one large and one small piece of hand luggage on board

Although you’ll be enjoying unprecedented luxury, the size of the aircraft is directly related to the number of passengers. For example, most brokers not would recommend a super midsize jet for a customer flying solo on a short flight unless the client prefers to do so.

What this means for you is that there will still be a limited amount of luggage per customer. Luggage limitations will be based on several factors:

  • Size of aircraft
  • Weight restrictions
  • Fuel requirements
  • Compartment door dimensions

You’ll still be able to carry one large hard case and one carryon soft bag per passenger. And of course, you won’t need to check any of it.

Just make sure you remember there isn’t unlimited space on-board!

Alcohol

There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks on-board. But there is something wrong with sneaking it on yourself!

A champagne toast on a private jet - alcohol etiquette on private jets
Passengers are free to enjoy a tipple but should avoid drinking so much that it affects their behavior

But there’s a simple solution: hand your booze over to the flight crew. They can store it for you and will happily serve you whenever you want a top-up. Plus, they’ll be able to keep it nice and cool for you.

Incidentally, many customers who are invited onto a private jet like to bring a bottle as a thank you. It’s akin to bringing a nice bottle of wine to a dinner party. If you want to do this, that’s completely fine – just remember to hand the bottle over to the flight crew to keep everything above board.

Finally, don’t overindulge. Passengers are free to enjoy a tipple but should avoid drinking so much that it affects their behavior.

Travel Documents

When you fly private, you get to avoid all of the hassles you face on commercial airlines. There’s little-to-no queuing. And all of your checks are performed at once.

However, you do still need all of your travel documents. The safest option is to bring your passport, just as you would on a regular flight. But, if you’re not leaving the country, a valid driver’s license should suffice.

Times

If it’s your first time booking a private jet, the odds are you’re going to be very punctual and prepared. But, if something goes wrong, we have good news:

Your flight times are flexible in most cases!

Private jet times are flexible
In most cases private jet flight times are flexible

There’s no need to raise the alarm if you’re running a couple of minutes late. But, if you’re looking at a delay of 15 minutes or more, it’s good form to make the lead passenger and your broker aware.

You don’t need to call the pilot yourself.

Good etiquette requires that you give as much notice as possible, as soon as you realize you’re going to be late.

The lead passenger should get in touch with their broker. They will contact the operator and inform them. In most cases, the operator will be able to delay your flight. 

It’s the same rule if you’re running early, too. The sooner you let us know, the higher chance there is that your flight can be adjusted.

Parking

When you arrive at the airport, you don’t want to park in the wrong place and cause a scene.

At the same time, you don’t want to get mixed in with all the other commercial passengers if you can take a shortcut.

We have excellent news: in the majority of cases, you’ll be able to drive right up to your private jet! It’s called ramp access. Ask your broker about this option. 

Vocabulary

If you want to look like an experienced flyer, you may want to get familiar with some of the terms you’re likely to hear in the air.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of private jet lingo:

TERM MEANING
YOM Year of Manufacture
BizAv Business Aviation
Refurb dates When the aircraft interior was last refurbished
FBO Fixed Base Operator
Seating config Layout and seating arrangement on-board
PAX Number of passengers

However, if you hear something and don’t understand it, just ask! There’s no need to pretend you’re an expert. Many of our customers fly privately as a one-off experience. The flight crew will be aware of this, and eager to make your experience as enjoyable as possible.

About Richard Zaher

Richard Zaher Richard Zaher is the founder and CEO of Paramount Business Jets. He is a pilot and the President of Air Charter Association of North America (ACANA). Richard is a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Studies. A seasoned international jet charter expert, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and the recipient of the Embry Riddle Eagle Excellence Award at the 2012 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. He is also an active member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as several safety and air charter organizations.

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