Why I’d fly commercial over private

Last week I had the great fortune to fly on a Gulfstream IV to Europe and back. The flight was great in both directions and actually pretty comfortable overall, but having flown a few long-haul flights in Business class, I have to think that flying commercial is a better option. Yes, I might be crazy, but I have my reasons.

At full capacity a G IV holds somewhere around 13 people. I know that we had that many on our flight. For a daytime flight it was fine, but on an overnight there was really not all that much space there. It was on par with a domestic F cabin in the USA. Yeah, I can sleep just fine in that seat and it beats the hell out of flying in coach, but I would expect something better in a private jet. With fewer people on board you can do something better in the arrangements, but that would really throw the cost analysis off.

The G IV is also a bit slower than commercial planes. We got passed on the flight home by a couple different wide-bodies headed in the same direction across the pond. That didn’t add too much time to the trip overall, and I suppose I should have just savored the time, but there was enough strange going on that I wasn’t really in the mood to stretch out the final segment.

The food was just OK and I’m sure better could be had if they catered us better. Ditto for the booze, though we didn’t get any of that on the flight thanks to limits issued by the drug company paying for our time.

One of the things that private planes are supposed to be able to take advantage of is access to smaller airports closer to city centers. That doesn’t seem to be such a great benefit for New York City. The main private airport is Teterboro, but we didn’t use that. We used Islip. That is the farthest of any “local” airports to NYC. We had to use Islip because Teterboro is stuck in the middle of the JFK/La Guardia/Newark air traffic control mess. That means they seem to get plenty of delays there, just like flying commercial. I understand that things are better in other cities, such as Orlando, Kansas City and the like where there are airports right in downtown, but that one doesn’t work so well for NYC.

It was nice to have the Immigration officer come to see us rather than the other way around.

And then there is cost. Hiring a G IV from NYC to BSL costs somewhere in the range of $150,000. That would cover a lot of paid first class seats.

Finally, I had to submit to four nights of sleeping with all this crud attached to my head to get the opportunity:


It wasn’t actually all that bad, and the high from the drug I was testing made it pretty much completely worthwhile, but that stuff all over my head sure did make sleeping annoying.

Don’t get me wrong – I won’t say no to another offer – but I also won’t assume that private is always better than commercial.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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