Jetting to Aspen in style

Tips on flying charter for the novice traveler

TRD New York /
Jan.January 08, 2016 12:00 PM

Gulfstreams are a frequent sight on the tarmac at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, and they will become even more common when the airport expands its runway, enabling it to accommodate the Gulfstream G650, which has a range of 7,000 miles and is too big to fly into Aspen now.

The G650 can seat 19, sleep 10 and costs around $65 million. (The airport can currently accommodate a smaller version, the G550 — a version of the Gulfstream V, available for a mere $50 million). According to the Aspen Times, “33 individuals with Aspen real estate connections placed orders for G650s” this fall.

Haven’t gotten round to placing your own order? Old plane in the shop? Then you’ll want to fly charter (especially because the wider runway won’t be ready until 2027), in order to travel to Aspen in style and comfort.

There are essentially two types of private charters available: “on demand” provided by companies like Charter Jet One, and fractional ownership companies like NetJets, where one purchases a number of hours on a card and uses them like a time-share.

“Private charter is a luxury. It holds no comparison to commercial travel,” said Janet Mayfield, sales and marketing director for Charter Jet One. “My clients choose the day and time of day that they wish to fly. They are pampered in luxury at the regional airport and on board.”

For those who care about the numbers, she said, a novice would need to know that charter costs, particularly longer flights — Teterboro to Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is not a short hop — are calculated by distance times rate of fuel plus surcharges, with additional factors affecting cost, such as the size of the aircraft. She ticked off a list of potential charges, such a fees for a steward or stewardess, waiting time and even de-icing, which can cost a few thousand dollars.

Richard Berger, CEO of Charter Jet One, has 20 years of flying experience. He said the mountains ringing Aspen make flying there a unique situation. Because the mountains are so high and close in, planes do not take off or land there at night.

Confused by all the variables? That’s why there are charter jet brokers to work out the details and prevent a bumpy ride, so to speak. “The broker would bear the cost, or at least be able to mediate or defray a loss, if one side were to cancel or if weather would not permit travel, Mayfield said. “Remember, even Miranda could not get off the ground in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ ” 

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