While the luxury of flying by private jet was once available only to millionaires, it is becoming a more popular means of transportation for business and recreation in Scottsdale.
A small-but-growing group of air travelers is choosing to charter jets, and Scottsdale is the Valley’s hub for private aviation.
Scottsdale Airport features 12 charter companies — more than any other Valley airport.
“We’ve been seeing an increase in the number of private aircraft coming in and out of Scottsdale,” said John Frevola, vice president and general manager of Landmark Aviation in Scottsdale. “It’s not just for the individual, billionaire-type anymore.”
The growing affordability of charter flights coupled with increased security regulations on commercial flights has caused a national boom in the charter industry.
The National Air Transportation Association estimates charter demand has increased about 20 percent each year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Late summer restrictions on liquids spiked private air travel an additional 15 percent, the group reports.
Locally, those factors, along with the expansion of north Scottsdale’s high-end, luxury communities including DC Ranch, Silverleaf and Troon, have fueled a steady increase in demand for charter aircraft, said Jeff Schlueter, president of Southwest Jet Aviation.
“There’s a lot of high-net-worth individuals that live out in these areas,” he said. “And when they want to go somewhere for the purposes of travel, Scottsdale Airport is much more convenient and conducive than driving down to Sky Harbor.”
Scottsdale is a natural destination for private air travelers because of the wealth of residents and jet-setting winter visitors, said Scott Gray, aviation director of Scottsdale Airport.
Many of the businesses in Scottsdale Airpark are also frequent charter users, he said.
While more businesses and corporations are choosing charter jets out of necessity, tourists are also increasingly opting to rent private jets for vacation and pleasure trips.
Copperwynd Resort in Scottsdale announced last week a partnership with Landmark Aviation to offer a vacation package for two, which includes a three-night stay in a luxury suite and a seven-hour day trip to Las Vegas on a private LearJet.
The $7,500, plus tax, price tag for the package will make charter flying accessible to people who normally wouldn’t consider it, said Marcia Taylor, the resort’s director of sales and marketing.
“There’s a trend that’s changing towards more private air,” Taylor said. “It’s been popular in business for awhile, but now I think it’s really becoming more for the getaway vacation as well.”
Charter companies charge anywhere from $2,000 to $8,500 per inflight hour, depending on size of the plane and amenities offered.
While convenience is the main appeal for charter jet users, passengers are also treated to lavish, individualized attention while in flight. Oversized leather chairs, personal DVD players and hot meals tailored to the passengers’ specification are just a few of the perks offered to customers.
“It’s still an expensive mode of travel,” Schlueter said. “But compared to going down to any of the airports, getting there plenty of time in advance and going through the security, the time savings is probably the biggest benefit they get from it.”
And more businesses and individuals are beginning to find the price of private travel in reach as lighter, more fuel-efficient jets cause flight costs to drop, said James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association.
Currently, the cheapest jets fly for around $2,500 an hour.
The newer generation of jets, like the Eclipse 500, could soon drop prices to below $1,000 an hour. “A lot of people who never even felt it was possible for their business or for themselves to afford charter, are now finding that its much more affordable,” Coyne said.