Owning a private jet is not for the mere millionaires among us

source
Erickson Stock/Shutterstock

  • Owning a private jet is not for mere millionaires.
  • Paying for fuel, maintenance, and pilot salaries can easily add up to $1 million or more per year, according to Chris Battaglia, the director of charter sales at Meridian Aviation at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, the main private aviation airport serving New York City.
  • Pilot salaries can add up to $750,000 per year and hangar fees can run around $200,000 per year.
  • “Having an airplane is not for millionaires,” Battaglia told Business Insider. “It’s for guys worth $50, $60, $100 million.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

From tech billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk to monarchs like the Sultan of Brunei, the world’s wealthiest individuals use private planes to jet around the globe – and they come with a serious price tag.

As Business Insider’s Paige Leskin previously reported, Bezos’ Gulfstream G650ER jet cost an estimated $65 million. Mark Cuban, meanwhile, owns no fewer than three private jets; in 1999, his $40 million purchase of a Gulfstream V jet put him in the Guinness Book of World Records for the single largest internet transaction. Even Bill Gates, who is known for being relatively frugal, has said that private jets are his “guilty pleasure.”

But there’s one thing all these people have in common: They are no mere millionaires. They’re actually not even mere billionaires.

Having an airplane is “for guys worth $50, $60, $100 million”

Owning a private plane is a luxury that isn’t for mere millionaires, according to Chris Battaglia, the director of charter sales at Meridian Aviation at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, the main private jet airport serving New York City.

Meridian provides aircraft services like fueling, parking, maintenance, and providing charters, as well as managing aircraft for businesses and wealthy individuals. As Battaglia has learned in his 13 years in the aviation industry, owning a private plane is a luxury that’s out of reach even for many millionaires.

“Having an airplane is not for millionaires,” Battaglia told Business Insider. “It’s for guys worth $50, $60, $100 million.”

First of all, you have to buy the plane, which can cost anywhere from $3 million to upwards of $90 million, depending on the size and customization.

But beyond the up-front price, the cost of maintenance, fuel, and pilot’s salaries can easily add up to $1 million or more per year, according to Battaglia.

If one pilot is paid a $250,000 salary, for example, you will need to pay that plus benefits, and depending on the size of the plane and how often you fly it, you’ll likely need two or three pilots, he said. That would bring the total annual cost for pilots alone to $750,000.

But it may be difficult to even find a pilot. The private jet industry is in the midst of a pilot shortage, as Sophia Ankel and Albane Guichard recently reported for Business Insider France. Many pilots are reportedly switching to flying commercial airlines, where they can get better pay and more stable working hours.

A charter plane in one of Meridian's hangars at Teterboro Airport.

caption
A charter plane in one of Meridian’s hangars at Teterboro Airport.
source
Katie Warren/Business Insider

Another huge cost is fuel. Fill up the nearly 50,000-pound tank of a 17-seat Bombardier Global 8000, for example, costs about $53,000.

Then there are the hangar fees, which can cost $200,000 per year, Battaglia said.

Maintenance fees can quickly add up as well. To replace a plane’s windshield, for example, could easily cost $60,000, according to Battaglia.

“There’s no cheap parts on these things,” he said. “Everything’s expensive.”

Private jets are mostly used for business travel

Despite their glamorous reputation as the preferred mode of transportation for celebrities, most private jets are used for business, Kirk Stephen, Meridian’s director of marketing, told Business Insider.

For many wealthy businesspeople, the main draw of owning a private jet is saving time, because of course, time is money.

While it could take days for a business traveler to fly commercial between certain destinations, “if you have a private jet, you can go from A to B to C to D all in a very short period of time,” Stephen said. “So it’s really saving time that’s saving money for businesses.”

While it may be worth it for the multimillionaires and billionaires of the world, there’s no denying that flying private is an exceedingly pricey way to travel.

“For one of these bigger airplanes, let’s just say it takes 15 minutes to taxi to the end of the runway,” Battaglia said. “You’re on the airplane for 15 minutes, and say that’s $2,500. For $2,500, you can go to Europe and back. Before you even took off, that’s how much money you’re spending.”