What is a private jet floating fleet?

A floating fleet is a term used to describe several aircraft of the same type in various locations, which are all typically owned by one operator. For example, the operator could have multiple Gulfstream G-IVs, Citation Xs, or Challenger 300s located throughout the U.S. Because they own many of the same model, they do not need to return to base; instead, they simply change the pilots and crew where necessary.

This is helpful because it allows operators to charge less, and they can quote one-way trips for a typical charge of flight time plus 40%. This is preferable to paying for an unused return journey, representing a 60% saving for clients. This lessens the financial burden on clients and creates fewer empty legs. Plus, because floating fleets are usually owned by an operator, there’s no need to wait for owner approval; however, keep in mind that cancellation policies are strict for one-way flights and can end up more costly than booking a round trip.

Floating fleets are based on popular routes. For example, you’ll find them on the north-to-south legs of flights along the East Coast of the US. You’ll also find them from the Midwest to Texas and Florida. And internationally, you’ll find many stops between Europe and the US.

In some areas, certain jet sizes will be more common. The East Coast's north-to-south route has lots of light jets available, while midsize aircraft are more common for cross-country routes.

How do floating fleets compare to empty legs in terms of pricing?

Empty legs are usually cheaper than using floating fleets, because floating fleets charge 40% extra on flight times.

Here’s a comparison for a New York – Los Angeles flight:

Type of FlightRouteAircraft ModelFlight TimeHours Charged
Empty LegNew York – Los AngelesCitation X5 hours5 hours
Floating FleetNew York – Los AngelesCitation X5 hours7 hours

As you can see, the floating fleet is usually more expensive than an empty leg. There are some rare cases where you’ll save money by chartering the flight a day before it’s due to fly empty, but these stories are often exaggerated. You’ll always have to pay at least the standard hourly rate for flight time.

What is more likely to be found, empty legs or floating fleets?

Floating fleets are always available, while empty legs only become available by chance. For example, a Chicago to Fort Myers, FL empty leg might pop up once every two weeks, but you can book the same flight on a floating fleet any time you like.

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