top of page

Private Plane Etiquette

I heard the most interesting ad the other day. There is a company that offers private-type flights for the commercial world. They describe themselves as a “hop on jet service.” On their website it states, “The convenience of private air but at commercial prices.” I looked them up, and there was one flight from Dallas to Houston for only $99! You can be dropped off right at the private terminal, called an FBO (Fixed Base Operator), just 30 minutes before departure. The carrier used was an Embraer, and it holds 30 passengers. The seats between the two window seats have been removed to allow for more room. Because you check in at a FBO instead of a commercial terminal, there are no long lines, and security only takes minutes. This sounds like heaven! Although you are still traveling with passengers you do not know, and it is technically not a true charted flight, it did make me wonder about etiquette and protocol for private transportation. With the creation of companies like the one I mentioned, this form of travel may soon become more mainstream. So, let’s explore this topic in hopes that one day soon, all of us can experience trekking across the country in luxury.

1. What to Wear:

If you are traveling with friends and family, you can go a little more casual. A nice pair of jeans and collared shirt work well. If it is a business trip, or you are traveling with people you do not know, then business attire is expected. Just as on a commercial flight, do not wear flip flops, sweatpants, or revealing attire.

2. The Host Boards First:

If you are on a private flight that serves as a semi-commercial transport (like the one mentioned in the opening paragraph) you will have an assigned seat. If it is a chartered flight, there are no assigned seats. In this case, treat the situation like you would if you were attending a party in someone’s home. Allow the host to board the plane first. The host will choose his/her seat and then instruct the guests where they may sit. The plane is the “home,” and the host has invited you to an event in his “home.”

3. Bespoke Service:

Many accommodations can be made for you on a private flight. Will you need lunch? Tell customer service when you make the reservation. No dairy on that salad? Let them know. Do you have a special wine you like? They will be happy to have it waiting. Flying private allows for bespoke services, so just inform the crew ahead of time. They want to make your experience a memorable one.

4. Internet:

Most private flights have internet connection, and a nice perk is you do not have to power down on a charter plane.

5. Pets Welcome:

This might be the best part when you charter a flight. No need to leave your 4-legged family member home! They will ride in the cabin with you either sitting on the floor or perched on the seat next to you. Just be mindful to let your pooch have a potty stop before boarding. Small planes mean big odors if accidents happen.

6. Bathrooms:

It is best to use the FBO bathroom before boarding. Bathrooms are tiny on a chartered transport. In fact, many lavatories double as an additional seat for passengers. A bathroom is available, and luxurious, but try to avoid using it if possible.

7. Luggage:

Upon arriving at the FBO you may pull your car right up to the plane. The pilot will load your luggage into the compartment, or you may take it with you into the cabin if it is small enough. Although you are not limited on how many bags you may bring, the size of the plane determines the maximum weight the vessel can carry. The storage area under the plane is not exceptionally large, either, so it is best to inquire what works best for the carrier you will be on. The best protocol is one large suitcase and one carry-on per passenger, but adjustments may be made since this is not a hard and fast rule as it is when flying commercial.

8. Do Not Dally:

There are many benefits to flying private, but a big one is your time. No need to arrive at the airport two hours before your departure. For a chartered flight (unlike the semi-commercial private flights), there is no security line to walk through and, at an FBO, long corridors to your gate are non-existent. Pulling up to your plane 15 minutes before your flight is commonplace. Keep in mind the FBO is not a place to hang out all day like you might in a commercial airport. There are no restaurants or food. Some might have a vending machine and a place to pour a cup of coffee, but that is the extent. An FBO is simply a passthrough to use the restroom, freshen up, and hop on your plane.

9. I.D.:

Although you do not have to go through security, you will need to show the pilot your identification once you board. Take along your passport or driver’s license.

10. Hostess Gift:

If you have been invited to join someone on a charter flight, it is nice to bring a hostess gift just as you would to a party. A nice bottle of wine is always appropriate, and it can be enjoyed on your flight if the host wishes. When it comes to alcohol make sure to let the pilot know you are bringing libations onboard. It is allowed, but it needs to be disclosed. An alternative to bringing a gift with you is to send your host a little something once you return home.

11. Clean Up:

Many private flights do not have flight attendants. The pilots are tasked with cleaning up the cabin upon your departure. Just as you would in your home, do not leave a mess. Dump any trash in the receptacle to lessen the work for the crew.

12. Tip:

Tipping your pilots is at your discretion. I recommend asking customer service when you book the flight what is standard practice for their company. There are differing opinions on this. My mantra in life is always: When in doubt, ask.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


bottom of page