What are Empty Leg Flights in Private and Business Aviation?

08.10.2021

The private and business aviation industry has been growing rapidly in the past years. And that's no surprise, with today’s ever-increasing demand for time and efficiency.

Flying private can be considered the most comfortable, efficient and stress-free way of traveling. But it often comes at a considerably higher cost than making the same trip using commercial air travel. For many people, time is money, and the time saved by flying private usually justifies the higher charter cost.

However, for many people, cost is often a major factor when it comes to making travel plans and deciding on the most convenient way of transport.

Luckily, there is a way to reduce the cost of flying private, by what is commonly referred to as empty legs or empty leg flights (sometimes also called 'deadhead').

In this article, we will discuss what exactly these empty leg flights are, how you can benefit from them, and what you should keep in mind when booking this type of charter flight.

What is an Empty Leg?

An empty leg is what its name implies: a one-way private or business jet flight that doesn’t have any passengers on it. It’s what happens when someone books a one-way trip, and the aircraft has to position before or after the 'live' flight.

To illustrate this, let's look at an example.

Assume that a fictitious client of ours named Bob lives near Antwerp and urgently needs to travel to Zurich for family reasons. His preferred departure airport is Antwerp, but no aircraft with the right specifications (or crew) is currently available at this particular airport. We offer him a beautiful Phenom 300 that can depart later tonight, but it is currently parked at Liège Airport. So, the aircraft will first have to position from Liège to Antwerp before picking up Bob and flying him to Zurich.

Now, Bob doesn't know yet how long he will be staying in Zurich so he doesn't book a return flight yet. The aircraft now has to fly its last leg empty, i.e. without any passengers on board, back to its home base in Liège.

This first positioning flight (Liège - Antwerp) can already be considered an empty leg, although it's just a fairly short flight. The last leg from Zurich back to Liège, however, can offer a great advantage to people who need to travel in this direction around the same time as the aircraft's planned return trip, resulting in a significant reduction in cost both for the traveler and the charter company.

A win-win situation!

Empty Leg Benefits

Why Would You Want to Book an Empty Leg Flight?

As discussed earlier, empty legs can offer great advantages for travelers in the same direction as the empty leg's planned trip.

First of all, there's a significant reduction in price.

Empty leg seats are frequently a cost-effective alternative for booking private jet travel due to the fact that these flights have some requirements determined by the live leg. This results in less flexibility (wich we will later touch upon below) but also a lower charter cost.

An empty leg can often be 30% to 50% less expensive, with in some cases price savings of up to 75% compared to regular private charters. This makes it an accessible way for people to enjoy the perks of flying private.

Because of the volume of single private chartered flights being taken, there are typically many empty legs available around the world at any given time, from airports all around the globe. If you have a schedule that is fairly flexible and open to change, then hopefully there will be a single flight that fits in with your schedule at a price that suits your budget.

Also, at any given day there are usually quite a large number of empty leg flights available. Of course, you will need to show some level of flexibility, as these flights often do not fly between the exact airports you would prefer.

And then there are some of the many other advantages of flying private, such as less stress, more privacy, improved comfort, more efficient travel times, convenience and much more. No matter if you're flying on an empty leg flight or a regular private jet charter, the benefits are plenty.

If you need more reasons to fly private, here are 11 more!

Empty Leg Downsides and Things to Keep in Mind

Why Would You Not Want to Book an Empty Leg Flight?

Although empty legs offer many advantages, there are some potential drawbacks involved with booking an empty leg flight.

First and foremost, it's important to remember the empty leg is always dependant on the live leg(s). There is often no guarantee that an empty leg will fly the exact route and on the exact same schedule as first communicated. This is because the empty leg can be rescheduled based on the schedule of the live leg. If your travel plans are not flexible for a particular trip, then an empty leg may not be the best choice for you.

For example, if the live leg with the previous client is canceled or delayed, your flight will be directly impacted, without the charter company being able to make any changes to accommodate your schedule. Also, when the initial client makes a change to their destination airport, i.e. he decides to fly to somewhere else, your empty leg flight will be impacted as well.

So it is very important to show some degree of flexibility when booking this type of flight.

Important to note is that, depending on the nature of the flight and its itinerary, it may be possible to change the arrival airport to better suit your needs. However, this is usually only possible with empty leg flights that are scheduled after the live leg, when the aircraft needs to fly back to its home base, for example.

How can you Find Empty Leg Flights?

If you have a specific route in mind, feel free to get in touch with our private jet team to inquire about any potential empty leg flights scheduled around the same dates and route. We will be more than happy to keep you informed about the options!

Conclusion

Empty leg flights are a great way to experience the comfort and experience of flying private, but at a lower charter cost. Because of the requirements determined by the live leg, you will however need to show some degree of flexibility when an empty leg flight.

All in all, it boils down to how much flexibility your travel plans allow for when considering whether or not this type of charter will work for you.

For more information or help with finding an empty leg that works for you, feel free to get in touch with our team anytime. We are available 24/7 for any of your future travel plans you may have!

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