Looking for an empty leg aboard a private jet, corporate class air charter aircraft or air taxi plane? Last minute deals on charter flights are easier to find when you know where to look.
Empty Legs are flights aboard certificated air carriers that are empty and flying to a specific destination.
When an empty leg is advertised, there is a compelling business reason why the airplane must fly to that destination from wherever it is right now. Perhaps the plane and the crew are returning to their home base. Or, perhaps the air charter operator sold a charter flight the following day and that flight originates from an airport other than where the airplane is right now. In either case, the airplane and the crew need to move. And the aircraft is available, on-demand, and usually, at a nice discount.
Generally, empty leg charters are available at a very good price for the Customer.
Generally, empty leg flights are available at a very good price for the Customer if you can wait until the very last minute to travel.
The airplane must go and the air charter operator would rather earn some revenue from the movement of the airplane. Generally, the charter operator has already covered her costs, but sees value in offering a chartered flight at less than rack rates. This presents an opportunity for charter service Customers to travel privately for less.
This is what the charter industry calls a “true one-way.”
Finding Empty Leg Flight
Air Charter Operators have long-standing, industry-wide avenues for finding empty leg charters. NBAA Airmail and Avinode are two ways the charter industry talks to each other about these flights.
But how does a person who is not affiliated with an aviation company find opportunities to travel on empty leg aircraft?
It is easier than you think if you can be flexible and ready to travel quickly. You can:
- Search online
- Call a local Air Charter Operator
- Call an Air Charter Broker
Finding Empty Leg Charters Online
Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram offer unlimited opportunities to connect with folks and share information.
You can certainly seek out people in the aviation industry on twitter and then follow their stream. But then you get everything they share; you’ll know what they had for breakfast, where they are going for vacation and what t-shirt design their hobby group decided on. All that just to find their empty leg flights. Hey, I’m not singling anyone out. We’re all guilty…
With the widespread use of hashtags, however, searching for and finding specific information about last minute charter deals is even easier.
Use Tagboard.com to Search for Hashtags
A hashtag is a word preceded by a pound sign that “tags” a post. Examples are #emptyleg, #emptylegs and #aircharter.
The beauty of hashtags is that the person sharing the post chooses the best hashtag for that post. They want you to search for that term and they want to be included in the search results for that hashtag.
In effect, they are telling you and the world, “This post is about finding an #emptyleg flight.”
Tagboard is a start-up company that specifically searches hashtags in real time and aggregates the term you are looking for onto “boards.”
You can see how old any of the posts are and, you can see what companies are chartering or brokering airplanes for charter. Try it! Search #emptyleg on tagboard.
Calling an Air Charter Company or Charter Broker
The business of charter air travel is personal. Sure, the overall service is transportation. But the delivery of that service is customized and personal. And so we as charter brokers and charter business owners, with a mission to provide a best-in-class transportation service, strive to understand your travel needs and wants.
Most of us have access to industry tools. Many of us have built good relationships with other charter companies. We know the configuration and limitations of many different aircraft. So we are best able to help you find an empty leg to your destination, if one is available.
Bear in mind, though, that many charter operators are focused on selling charters for the airplanes they have. Many do not take the time to broker charters because running their own charter operation takes all of their time and effort.
As for charter brokers, most are focused on the “luxury jet charter market.” They’d rather sell a charter in a twin turboprop or light jet than fiddle around searching for a one-way trip on a smaller airplane. They make more money selling jet charters and round-trip turboprop charters.
And then there is that pesky issue of scheduling.
The Problem with Scheduling Deals on Empty Leg Flights
Hundreds of chartered aircraft fly empty each day. Through no fault of its own, the inefficiency in the air charter industry is staggering. Scheduling a flight on an empty leg in advance is almost impossible. And here’s why:
The person who initially charters the aircraft is in control. They decide when they want to leave their home airport (and even they are at the mercy of unforeseeable events like changes in weather). So imagine a charter operator books a flight for one Customer at a particular time and expects to be available for other charters two hours later. What happens when the first Customer calls the charter operator and says she will be a little late? This pushes back the departure of all other flights or leaves the charter operator with the unpopular choice of canceling the first Customer’s flight or delaying and possibly losing all other Customer flights.
Now imagine you booked an empty leg charter from whatever airport the first Customer was flying to. This is a logistical nightmare.
Another possibility is that the first chartered flight cancels. When this happens, there is no one-way flight back to home base. The airplane never left in the first place.
What else could get in the way of chartering the airplane on what was to be an empty leg?
Let me count the ways…
- The pilot runs out of duty time. We can’t fly all day and all night. Even if we wanted to, Federal Regulations make this illegal.
- The airport shuts down. Hey, it happens: runways close for maintenance or to remove debris. It is possible that you got a great deal on an empty leg flight and made travel plans too far in advance when this information could not be known.
- Bad weather. Most of the time, waiting it out causes delays, not cancellations. But cancellations do occur.
- Cannot advertise all flights, all the time. On-demand charter companies are not “scheduled carriers.” We cannot advertise more than 4 flights per week between the same two airports. Airlines can do that because they have a different operating authority. But charter companies cannot.
With all of these logistical hurdles, it’s no wonder the maximum revenue utility of an aircraft is hardly realized in the charter industry.
But wait, there is hope.
If you can be very flexible and be willing to travel at the last minute, you can get a deal on an empty leg flight.
- Be very flexible with your departure time and don’t make plans too far in advance.
- Take a drive over to your local airport and meet the people who own the charter companies closest to your home or office. Many of us fly daily, often to the same places.
- Let us know you can be flexible and we’ll let you know when we may be able to offer you a good deal on a private, charter flight.
Finding Empty Legs
The next time you are looking for a private flight somewhere, call your favorite air charter operator or broker. Or, with a very small amount of effort, hop online and do a search for empty leg flights.
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