Hugh Morris, The Daily Telegraph, May 12, 2017
Jetting into town on your own private jet is pretty baller, sure. But what if you wanted to super-size the personal flying experience and invite 200 friends along for the ride?
Unfortunately, you would need to reach for something only achieved by a handful of people in aviation history before you and try and get your hands on a jetliner, such as a 747 or A320.
So can I buy a jetliner?
Absolutely. How many digits does your bank balance have? Because if it’s less than seven you better start saving.
Let’s assume, first, the plan is to buy a brand new plane from Boeing, one of two big daddies of the aircraft business, the other being Airbus, but for the simplicity of this piece let's consider the former.
In the same way any manufacturer puts its products up for sale, the Boeing website has a commercial section aimed at potential buyers, complete with a pricelist listed in US dollars.
For the would-be jetliner owner after a basic model, the 737-700 starts at $82.4million, about £64.1m, or for just $16million more, the 737-800, which is Ryanair’s aircraft of choice.
Anyone after a more spacious plane might want to consider the 787 Dreamliner, starting at $229.5million (£178.5m). The most expensive option on the books is the 2019-expected 777-9, which would set you back a cool $408.8million (£318m).
Boeing points out that the prices given are averages “reflecting a range of available options and configurations for each model” with varying “performance, capability, interiors, avionics, fuel capacity, etc”.
The good news is that, if your mate fancies one too, you might be able to wangle a discount.
Private jets' incredible interiors What sort of thing do I need to consider?
Do you want the sort of space that would suit seven friends on a luxury stag or hen, or is Iron-Maiden-and-posse-on-tour more your vibe? Boeing has a handy interactive aircraft comparison feature to deal with all the conundrums on buying your first aircraft - two aisles or one? 242 seats or 467? 38,180 gallons of fuel capacity or 53,985?
Remember also to think about range - how far the plane can fly in a single flight. There is no point in splashing out a couple of hundred million pounds only to realise your dream of hopping over to the Philippines has been dashed because you accidentally purchased the short-range model.
How do I pay?
“An important first step in sourcing the airplane is to consider financing options,” states Boeing, before explaining that most buy via “operating lease” and “direct purchase”, which means essentially renting the aircraft or using a mortgage-type loan to steadily assume equity of the plane.
It is unlikely though that anyone but an airline would purchase a brand new aircraft (and many airlines lease their planes, anyway).
It is also key to remember that though purchasing an aircraft might be considered capital expenditure, the cost of actually flying the thing runs yet higher.
On top of safety checks, aviation authority certificate acquisition and maintenance, each flight can cost up £20,000 in fuel, take-off and landing fees. A “go-around” aborted landing, in the case of high winds or a last-minute emergency, might alone cost £4,000.
Timelapse video shows super-fast construction of a BA 787-9 Dreamliner 03:59What about second-hand planes?
Less glam but more realistic, the second-hand aircraft market is vast. Plenty of models have a decent shelf life but have been shed by airlines wanting to update their fleets - the 747 being a current example of an aircraft that is leaving more carriers than it is joining. Also, the rate of depreciation is rapid.
President Trump owns a customised 757 - and you could too, sort of
Head over to GlobalAir.com, an aviation marketplace of 20 years of standing, where you can pick up a 1991 Boeing 737 with a mere 53,000 flying hours under its belt for just $6million (£4.6m).
“This aircraft… is in impeccable condition. Completely refurbished in 2016. 44 luxury seats and interior… Going at a very good price,” the seller, Delta World Charter, beams.
There are no 747s available at the moment, but an answer on Quora, the Q&A website, estimates that used one might cost between $10million and $100million.
Do many people own their own commercial aircraft?
Clearly plenty of people own your more traditional, smaller, private jets, but how many people are flying round in their own (heavily customised) jetliners?
The most prominent man to boast such a privilege is perhaps the leader of the free world, Donald Trump, whose 757 caused a controversy in the early days of his presidency when he said he would rather keep flying in it rather than the more secure Air Force One.
Roman Abramovich, Chelsea football club owner, has a Boeing 767 dubbed the “Bandit”. Lord knows why.
Other names who have acquired jetliners at huge costs and then converted them into airborne palaces include Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, Joseph Lau and the Sultan of Brunei.
Of course, as the rich get richer, owning a commercial aircraft that was more often used to fly fare-paying commoners around the world is not as rare as it used to be. Indeed, Boeing has launched Boeing Business Jets bringing “the best of commercial aviation into the realm of private air travel”.
“Our customers put a high premium on quality and mobility,” Boeing says. “Most often, they want access to the same amenities in the air as they have on the ground including an office, bedroom, shower, dining facilities, entertainment areas and more.”
Boeing offers a choice of its own Boeing Business Jets or the more typical MAX aircraft, 787, 777 and 747s.
What’s the alternative?
Charter a jet or kit your garden shed out like a plane, buckle up, stow your tray table and prepare to pretend to take off.