Empty Leg Flight - How Do They Work? Empty Leg Charter Flight Benefits

What Is an Empty Leg Flight? The Benefits of Empty Leg Charter Flight

August 9, 2021

Private charter and their empty leg flights spoil you. The possibility of crossing the wild-blue yonder like a Rock-star or a jettisoning millionaire thrills our very souls. Galavanting around the skies on a small jet, sipping champagne, trying to flush out the indignities of flying commercials from our system, is everyone’s dream.

Still, and pardon the pun, midway through our fantasy we have to crash down to earth — Why? The cost. The luxury of such an endeavor is reserved for a few. Luckily, in this post, we’re going to give you the skinny on how to book a cheap private jet flight. Forget about security lines, boarding groups, and all that hassle — here’s the scoop on your new best friend, the empty leg flight.

What’s an empty leg flight?

It’s on everyone’s bucket list, the possibility of ditching commercials and flying on a private plane. The unparalleled level of convenience, plus the folklore of it attracts us like sailors to a swarm of mermaids. But, like those mariners, the minute the costs slap us over the head, we crash headlong into the rocks. Well, thankfully, with some savvy detective work and a bit of flexibility as a traveler, there’s a way to hop on a private plane at a fraction of the cost.

Empty leg flights are flights scheduled to take off without any passengers. Hence the name — one leg of the journey that is vacant/empty. Why is that? Well, the plane has to get somewhere or come back from somewhere. Most charter planes are one-way.

These types of flights are sometimes referred to as “dead-heads”, or “ferry flights.” Between 30% to 50% of private jet companies operate this way. They have been booked at an airport and have no other choice but to send their plane, sans passengers, to that station. Or, they’ve just flown there, deposited their human cargo, and now have to return to their home base empty.

what are private empty leg flights

So, now, the airline has a fully functional jet – that’s bound to have operating costs – funneling off money from their revenue stream. It’s not making a dime. As a result, they begin to offer seats on these flights at almost 75% of their real cost.

How do empty leg flights work?

These are spur of the moment, last minute, take it or leave it, cheap private jet flights. They are often sold hours, at most days, before takeoff. The routes are limited and there’s no way to predict when they come online.

The reason for this, fly by the seat of your pant’s approach, is that the airline starts to offer these routes once they are 100% certain they’re going to come across an empty flight scenario. Once some millionaire has booked the flight to a “deadhead” destination, and they haven’t lured in another whale for the flight back — or vice-versa.

It’s important to understand that airlines detest empty leg flights. It’s a necessary inconvenience that eats at their profit margins. If they have no other choice but to suffer a private charter flight with empty leg syndrome, then they make the most of it. They start, to put it bluntly, picking up hitchhikers that are willing to pay for the gas and snacks on the trip.

Empty leg flights Vs Traditional flights — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let’s talk about how empty leg flights differ from conventional charters or your regular airbus.

More space

Most private jets have plenty of room to move around. You won’t have to deal with cramp surrounding or neck pains. You’ll feel rested and refreshed once you get to your destination. There’s even a chance you might get the entire jet to yourself.

Baggage handling

Every time we leave our bag at a commercial airline’s counter most of us say a tiny little prayer and get a lump in our throat. How many of us have lost an item or a whole bag for that matter? When you fly private, your bags are not only treated with care but in many cases are dispatched and boarded while you’re venturing into the aircraft. You can see them being hauled and secured into the belly of the beast.

baggage handling in private jet

No tickets

You’ll need a reservation, but not a ticket. All you have to do is go up to the counter or in many cases stand and say your name, provide an ID, and that’s it.

Airport hassles BE GONE!

Security checkpoints. Taking off your shoes, belt, getting x-rayed. The mob of thousands of passengers. Your bags are ping-ponged about. Boarding lines. Having to walk from one end of the airport to the other. Think of all the nightmares you normally experience at your local airport. One of the biggest perks of empty leg flights is that you won’t have to deal with any of those mind-numbing scenarios.

Food — Maybe?

When we think of private jets we instantly conjure up images of caviar and champagne, maybe a couple of tasty sushi rolls, at the very least a lobster. Well, the reality isn’t as glamorous. Most private jets have pre-packaged meals. Tasty spreads compared to commercial flights but packaged nonetheless.

AND, empty leg flights might not even have those. Remember you’re paying a fraction of the real cost. So you might be sacrificing that perk on the altar of THE great discount they’re handing out.


The flight might be canceled at any time. Whether it’s because the first leg was canceled, or for mechanical reasons, or because the airline managed a hail-mary pass and found a group willing to pay full price.

Empty leg flight equals ONE leg of your journey

You’ll only be able to book it in one direction. That’s it. Coming back from your destination is up to you.

How to book empty leg flights — and their cost.

Most empty leg flights cost a fraction of their real price. Some even one-quarter of what they normally charge. If you want an empty flight in the UK or anywhere else, your best bet is to subscribe to different company mailing lists and constantly check, or call, charter private firms to see if they have something available. These are spontaneous flights that pop up regularly but don’t adhere to a schedule. You won’t find them on online travel agencies like Expedia or Priceline. A middleman won’t have them in their roster. It’s best to book directly from the charter company.