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

Welcome to our essential guide to private jet etiquette, where you’ll find all the necessary information before your first private flight.

If you are about to experience your first ever trip, you might be asking yourself if you should behave any different than on a commercial flight. After all, there won’t be any other passengers (unless you’re flying with family, friends or business partners), there won’t be any screaming babies or children kicking your seat from behind, and you won’t have to go through the hassle of checking in,  or dealing with delays, and the cabin crew will be able to focus entirely on you.

From your baggage 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

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 travel dressed more casually.

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

  • Sweatpants
  • Vests
  • Gym clothes
  • Flip-flops

However, as with everything in life, there are exceptions. Nowadays, young, rich kids that can afford to fly private often dress in sweatpants and gym clothes, and don’t pay attention to the rules above. Also, people who own their own jets tend to fly very casually.

Booking

One perk of flying private is that you can book your aircraft at short notice. However, it’s generally better to charter a jet as early as possible to make sure everything is ready and exactly like you want it to be.

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

However, if you require an aircraft at short notice, this too can be arranged. We can organize flights in as little as three hours for our 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.

The owner of the aircraft or lead passenger should board the aircraft first and select their seat. Other passengers should then occupy the remaining seats.

When you fly commercial, you know your exact seat in advance.

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

The answer is: both. 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, it’s up to 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 definitely do so if they’re happy with the service they receive.

If the cabin crew was 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’s different with each individual case. If you just got off 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 deicing before takeoff. Your animal had an accident? The carpet will need to be washed once you’ve landed.

If your flight requires additional work, you may be charged extra. However, 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 small space, so usually, you can only bring one piece of hand luggage on board.

Does this mean that when you fly private, you can bring as much baggage as you like?

Well, not exactly.

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

Usually, you can only bring one large and one small bag on board. The size of the aircraft is directly related to the number of passengers. For example, most brokers wouldn’t recommend a super midsize jet for a customer flying alone 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 baggage per customer. Luggage limitations will be based on several factors:

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

You’ll still be able to take one large suitcase and one soft carry-on bag per passenger. And of course, you won’t need to check-in any of them.

Just make sure you remember that there is limited space on board!

Alcohol

There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks on board. But you shouldn’t sneak the alcohol on board, and you shouldn’t drink so much that it will affect your behavior!

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

There’s a simple solution to this: hand your alcohol over to the cabin 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 cool for you.

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

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 check-ins happen at once.

However, you do 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 punctual. But, if something goes wrong:

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 panic if you’re running a couple of minutes late. But, if you’re looking at a delay of 15 minutes or more, it’s recommended to inform the lead passenger and your broker.

You don’t need to call the pilot yourself. As soon as you realize you’re going to be late, you should let someone know, preferably the lead passenger, because not all flights have a flexible departure time.

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 for running early, too. The sooner you let us know, the higher chance there is that your flight can be adjusted.

Parking

When you chose private jet charter over commercial, in most cases, you can avoid parking in the main parking lot together with other airline passengers. Usually, 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 during  your private flight.

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 you don’t understand, feel free to ask. 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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