How to Provide Valid Rationale for Owning a Private Jet or Having a Personal Driver

by Aug 1, 2023Advisory Groups

Every time I engage in a discussion with an entrepreneur who’s in the process of selling their business, the top two items they immediately consider spending their newfound wealth on are a vacation club (a subject I’ll delve into later) and private aviation. In simpler terms, they’re interested in purchasing an aircraft or leasing a private jet.

Now, it’s widely believed that the cost of owning a private jet is impossible to justify. Even the famously frugal Warren Buffet, whose firm owns NetJets, has named his plane “Indefensible.”

But I’m here to tell you that Buffet is wrong. I believe there is a solid economic argument for flying private instead of commercial and, likewise, paying someone to drive you around.

Let’s dig in.

Wasting your time

We’re all familiar with the agony of traveling on a commercial flight. Think about the extra time you spend showing up early, maybe parking your car, and standing in the security line with everyone. Then there’s the time you must wait around before you board. Even when you get on the plane, there’s the extra time you spend listening to the safety announcements and the time to taxi out onto the runway. At that point, you’re just praying that you’re not stuck out there for any time before the flight takes off.

Then add in the extra time after your flight lands, when you’re waiting for everyone to deplane, and hustling through the airport to spend more time picking up a rental car or hailing a cab to get to wherever you’re headed–hopefully on time, if your flight wasn’t delayed.

When you add up all that time, on average, you’re likely wasting three hours that could be devoted to something productive. Sure, you could send some emails or risk a call or two in the terminal. But are you really at your best in that environment?

Let me show you another way.

A better way to fly

If you have never traveled through private aviation, let me tell you: it’s a revelation. First, you call ahead 24 hours in advance to have a plane waiting for you when needed. Most private aviation facilities are on or near major airports, so you drive up 10 to 15 minutes before your scheduled flight. Once you park your car and enter the building, someone will hand you a drink and escort you onto the tarmac and the waiting plane.

Within a few minutes, you’re wheels up and headed to your destination. On board the plane, you’re treated to whatever food or drink you want. You can even make phone calls or send emails at your leisure.

When you land, your car or ride is waiting for you, and within 10 minutes, you’re on your way to your destination feeling clean and refreshed.

What’s that feeling worth to you?

Recently, my mother attempted to fly out of the New York area for a vacation. The flight was canceled after she’d spent 10 hours at the airport, including four sitting on a plane. The weather and FAA control impacted thousands of travelers that day. Compare that with travel that same day by the CEO of the airline she had selected. He hopped on a private plane from an airport 10 miles away from hers and flew comfortably to his destination without delay. He has subsequently apologized for the insensitivity, but the difference is stark.

Time well spent

When you compare the two, any sane person would choose to fly private over commercial. It’s the cost difference that holds them up.

Flying private costs from $3,000 to $9,000 an hour or more. That’s more than the $1,000 to $1,500 you’d spend on a first-class ticket on a commercial flight, which is why it can be so hard for people to justify.

But I’ll challenge you to think differently about the equation. Rather than focusing just on the price, think about the opportunity cost you’re wasting.

Let’s say the average executive flies twice a month. That means they’re wasting around six hours of non-flying time every month on commercial flights.

If we do the math and say that a private flight costs $8,000, the three hours of wasted time would equal $2,600 an hour. That sounds like a lot. That’s even more than high-end lawyers charge. Some would say they saved $7,000 by flying commericial.

But think about it differently. Could you generate $2,600 worth of new ideas to help grow your business in the time you waste by flying commercial? I think the answer is yes for any competent leader in a midsize organization or larger organization.

Or what if you brought colleagues or team members with you on the flight? Jack Welch, for instance, was famous for asking subordinates to join him on his flights because he turned flight time into an immensely productive meeting. Funny enough, he charged the business unit leader for the flight, which is another story.

When you think about the lost opportunity cost from all that time wasted in transit, private aviation looks like a wise investment instead of a frivolous cost.

Make the most of your commute

If I can’t convince you that flying private is a good investment, you could start small and consider hiring a private driver. While it might seem like an incredible luxury, it might be one of the smartest investments you can make as a business leader.

For example, a client of mine lives about 45 minutes from his office. But rather than drive himself on the 1.5-hour round-trip commute each day, he has hired a driver instead. Even better, he owns a custom Sprinter van outfitted with comfy seats, a restroom, and the latest communication technology. When commuting, he stays productive every minute, conducting video calls with his team, updating spreadsheets, or making calls.

To put some numbers to it, that 1.5-hour commute over 50 weeks comes to 375 hours a year. Let’s say a private driver costs around $100,000 a year, and the van depreciation costs $50,000 a year. From my client’s perspective, he can easily cover that $150,000 cost in the extra 375 hours of productivity he gains by not driving himself. If his time is worth more than $400 an hour, it is a great deal.

Don’t waste your time

Investing in luxuries like private aviation and drivers makes a lot of sense when you begin to value your time differently. After all, time is the scarcest of resources. That’s why it’s worth it to think beyond the cost of these services, and to consider the opportunity cost of wasting your time instead.