How much income do you need to own a private jet?

In the USA, there is a bit of political theater going on as President Obama has repeatedly called people earning as little as $250,000 a year “jet owners.” However, does President Obama’s numbers really add up? In other words, could someone earning $250,000 a year really afford to own, operate or charter their own private jet?

The Wall Street Journal’s Robert Frank and Kelsey Hubbard recently sat down and gave a reality check about the level of income it really takes to become a true jetsetter.

Specifically, the pair noted that a good private jet will cost $5 million to purchase – unless you go for a scaled down version for a few hundred thousand dollars. However, they also noted that it will typically cost $500,000 to $1 million a year just to operate a private jet. This means that a private jet owner will probably need at least $10 million in income per year to afford to become a jet setting jet owner.

Moreover, it was noted that the cheapest rate to charter a private jet from New York to Florida was $3,000 an hour – starting from the moment you board. Hence, a round-trip flight from New York to Palm Beach Florida would probably cost at least $20,ooo or one-tenth of the income of someone earning only $250,000 a year.

In other words, owing and chartering a private jet is really just an option for a very small and elite group of wealthy individuals in our society – not those earning “merely” $250,000 a year. 

11 Responses to How much income do you need to own a private jet?

  1. Louis Graham July 2, 2011 at 04:23 #

    Not to mention the fact that Mr. Obama flies on one of the most expensive private jets in aviation! As a corporate pilot based in Chicago, I found it interesting that he would attack corporate aviation as he was an active user of charter companies before his election. It's a hard sell, but many of the deals that built our country were made in the back of some sexy business jet.

    • liz March 20, 2015 at 00:12 #

      Pretty sure you had ZERO problem whatsoever with a Republican president flying on the same plane.

      • george August 15, 2015 at 01:41 #

        Liz, It had nothing to do with Republican Vs Democrat.. but much more to do with Obama’s Hypocrisy regarding business jets, private aircraft, and then after his speech, get’s on the most expensive biz jet

        I’m sure Louis would have the exact same comment about President Trump, complaining about biz jets, and then getting on his private jet..

        Hypocrisy, not Politics here Liz, chill out, and stop making this into what you want it to be a “us vs them” thing, and look at it like a rational human being reading a comment without having a preconceived mantra ready to spew out of you at any moment.. Even when it’s not relative.

      • Robert Jones August 9, 2017 at 17:22 #

        @liz can you imagine what’s happening NOW?

  2. Brian July 2, 2011 at 23:44 #

    John, actually that's not what he said. He never even implied that people making a "mere" $250,000/year could afford private jets. Its fine if you disagree with the POTIS's view on taxation, however if you write an article about it, please do it based on what he actually said, rather than what you think your readers will want to hear.


  3. Larry January 27, 2012 at 03:51 #

    When did Obama ever once call people making $250k a year jet owners?

  4. liz March 20, 2015 at 00:10 #

    “As *little* as $250,000 a year”? Oh. my. lord.

    • Zach November 6, 2015 at 16:09 #

      250k is quite a small amount even aftertax, but before tax, is upper middle class territory. Certainly comfortable, but most of my wants wouldn’t be satisfied at 250k.

  5. Rogelio March 8, 2016 at 14:07 #

    I’ve been doing some of my own research regarding jet prices and this article is spot on. Maybe with a $250 000 yearly you can afford a few private jet flights (chartered flights) which are still pretty expensive, but some of the cheapest private jet models I’ve seen start at around $1 million.

  6. Gavin Menezes June 27, 2017 at 22:35 #

    Like most major capital assets you have to have enough revenue from a business to be able to depreciate it and write write off corporate jet travel as an expense (that is assuming your business has a need for you to travel somewhere). There are thousands of business jets all over the country, most of which are engaged in Part 135 operations (charter for hire) or privately owned and operated by corporations (large businesses). Even so very few people that make over a million a year personally own their own jet airplanes. If they do, they are hanger queens (rarely flown). If your not on a Forbes list but relatively close to being on there you probably use NetJets or XOJet until your actually on the list. There are many millionaires out there that own and operate piston and more cost effective turboprop airplanes. These are capable and fast means of transport but still not “Jet Setters”. For most normal people the only way to Jetset is in the back seat of an airliner and for a fortunate few who invest a considerable amount of money and an entire career in aviation become pilots and enjoy getting paid to fly. Piloting careers vary greatly as well – Pilots can make as little as $6,000/year to northward of $300,000/year depending on a variety of different factors. Each one of us with alot of hard work and a little luck can be a JetSetter in our own way… The cheapest I ever JetSetted was AirTran from Orlando to Akron, OH for $75 and most people can somehow find that $75. Politics aside… I hope you all enjoy air travel as much as I do 🙂

  7. Javier Hernandez October 16, 2017 at 02:18 #

    I’m not sure if it’s okay what I’m saying but they should sell jets and airplanes at a way lower price so we can all have jets and planes in the sky and lots of people having fun. Because jets are really pricey now days and its only been about less than 100 years that the Wright Brothers invented the first airplanes during World War 1. Imagine what’s new to come and inventions in technology in the next 100 years. I think it’s extremely interesting and I think we’ll have a future similar to Star Wars movie and video games also futurama like with flying vehicles and space ships, that might take longer than 100 years but I have a strong feeling that technology, vehicles, and airplanes will change DYNAMICALLY.

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