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When considering air travel, safety is usually at the forefront of most passengers’ minds.

The debate between the safety of private jet travel versus commercial flights is a topic that has been often discussed, with a common belief being that given private jets are smaller planes compared with commercial aircraft surely they aren’t as safe.

Of course, both modes of transportation have their own safety protocols and standards that they adhere to.

In this article, we will delve into the raw data of aviation industry accidents, explore the safety standards and maintenance procedures of private aircraft, and consider the training and certification of crews.

We’ll also touch on the hygiene safety protocols that set private jets apart from their commercial counterparts.

The aim is to provide an objective and comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision about your air travel choices.

However, the overall answer is that yes, private jets are just as safe as flying on a commercial airline, in some cases even safer

Evaluating the Raw Accident Data

What do the numbers say when looking at whether private jets are safer than commercial air travel?

For simplicity’s sake, only data from the United States of America will be compared.

First off, let’s look at the accident rate of commercial airlines.

For this, we will investigate the accident rate for scheduled aircraft that the ICAO class as an accident.

In 2019 there was an accident rate of 0.34 per million departures. That equates to one accident per nearly 3 million times a commercial airplane takes to the sky.

This translates to 27 accidents in the United States in 2018 for commercial traffic.

In 2019 this number raised to 39 accidents for commercial traffic.

Corporate jets, on the other hand, reached 14 total accidents among business jets in 2018. In 2019 this number raised to 16 accidents.

Before we jump to conclusions saying that private jets are safe as there are fewer accidents, we must take into account the number of flights per year.

Quite simply, there are fewer business aircraft flying than commercial airlines.

Unfortunately, there is no total number of private jet movements per year compared with commercial.

Taking a look at data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there is private plane data that allows us to evaluate the accident rate as a proportion of flight hours.

In 2021 there were 1.54 non-fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours and 0.26 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

Additionally, the most dangerous phase of flight is during landing, with over 4 times more accidents than during takeoff.

Consequently, we can conclude from the actual statistics that commercial jets and private flights are extremely safe. 

Pilatus PC-24 water ingestion test - are private jets safer than commercial?

How Aircraft Impact Private Jet Safety

One factor that will affect safety in the air is the aircraft itself.

There is nothing to suggest that commercial jets are safer than ones intended for business aviation.

Additionally, there is nothing to suggest that private jets are built to be safer than commercial ones.

The fact of the matter is that in order for an aircraft to operate within the United States of America, it must receive FAA approval.

The FAA has rigorous safety measures in place to ensure that aircraft in the sky are as safe as possible.

Therefore, if an aircraft passes these checks, it should be considered safe.

One exception to this rule would be the 737 Max.

During the Max investigations, it was revealed that Boeing was able to significantly influence FAA aircraft approval measures.

Something to consider with the latest and greatest business jets is that they feature the latest technology and world-leading safety systems.

For example, nearly every new business jet has some form of Heads Up Display for greater safety. For example, the Dassault Falcon 8X, G650 and Global 7500.

Ability to Land At Almost Any Airport

Another factor contributing to the safety of private jets is their ability to land at almost any airport.

This flexibility is not available to commercial airliners, which are typically restricted to larger airports due to the longer runway length required.

This is why these bigger planes are limited to the major airport hubs due to the length of tarmac required. 

Private jets, on the other hand, have access to thousands of smaller airports worldwide, giving pilots a wider range of options when choosing where to land.

In adverse weather conditions or emergencies, this ability can be a lifesaver, allowing for quicker landing and, if necessary, prompt medical attention.

Moreover, the usage of less busy airports potentially reduces the risk of ground accidents and facilitates a more controlled, safer landing.

Consequently, the ability of private jets to access a broader range of airports bolsters their safety profile.

Cessna citation maintenance hangar - are private jets safer than commercial

Dealing with Bad Weather

Bad weather often poses significant challenges for all forms of air travel, yet private jets are particularly adept at handling such scenarios.

This, of course, includes how the aircraft deals with turbulence.

Ultimately, private aircraft are sometimes more affected by turbulence due to being smaller and lighter than large commercial aircraft.

However, typically commercial airlines cruise at a lower altitude than corporate jets which means they have less flexibility to avoid poor weather conditions. 

Advanced navigation and weather radar systems, which are standard equipment on private jets, allow pilots to detect incoming weather disturbances well in advance.

This technology enables them to adjust their flight path to avoid harsh conditions, thereby maintaining a high level of safety.

Moreover, private jet pilots undergo rigorous training to handle various weather scenarios, further enhancing their ability to ensure a safe journey even in adverse conditions.

More so, the flexibility of private jets to land at numerous airports offers an added advantage during volatile weather, providing an additional safety net.

All these factors significantly contribute to private jet safety, especially when dealing with bad weather.

Maintenance of Aircraft and Safety Regulations

While an aircraft can be safe coming out of the factory, maintenance can make or break an aircraft. This is why flying with a reputable charter company, jet card program, fractional ownership or jet management company is vital.

The private jet industry is heavily regulated around the world, especially in the United States under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Maintenance is, therefore, an area that is heavily scrutinized.

Required maintenance will vary from aircraft to aircraft and depending on the mission type, however, if the aircraft isn’t correctly maintained it is unable to fly.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are companies that will allow aircraft to fly that shouldn’t.

For example, in Europe 14% of all private jet charters are illegal – also referred to as “gray charters”. As demand for private jets increases, this epidemic is increasing, with the FAA ever trying to shut down illegal charters.

Once again, it comes back to ensuring that you only ever fly on a private jet when it has been arranged by a reputable company.

With airlines, it can be far more black and white. There are less likely to be “gray” airlines. People naturally have a better sense of which airlines are safer.

Additionally, there are fewer airlines than private jet charter brokers, therefore, it is easy to find a reputable company.

When chartering a private jet there are multiple parties involved. Therefore, there are multiple times to be dealing with a company that might bend the rules.

Variation Between Charter Operators

There are many private jet companies that actually operate the aircraft that you fly on and this can vary heavily.

Not all private jet charter services are created equal – there are disparities in maintenance standards, crew training, and safety certifications.

The best operators prioritize safety above all, investing heavily in regular maintenance, comprehensive pilot training programs, and acquiring all necessary certifications.

They often surpass the minimum safety requirements set by aviation authorities, aiming for excellence rather than mere compliance.

Additionally, they ensure their crew members are highly experienced and participate in ongoing training to handle various flight scenarios safely.

On the contrary, operators cutting corners to save costs may compromise safety, underlining the importance of choosing a reputable charter service.

One of the best ways to evaluate safety is with a third-party safety audit. The external bodies that provide this service are ARGUS, WYVERN, and IS-BAO.

Just as there are operators who may not always follow safety procedures perfectly, there are many who go above and beyond the safety minimums. 

Dassault 8X Cockpit

Crew Certification and Safety Checks

The people at the front of the aircraft are the most important in keeping you alive. 74% of all accidents can be attributed to pilot error.

Therefore, if your crew is tired or not qualified for the job, safety will be seriously compromised.

Again, this comes back to the reputation of the company that you are flying with. In terms of the difference in training between commercial and private jet pilots, there is virtually nothing in it.

Factors such as fatigue are regulated, ensuring that your crew shouldn’t be tired when flying. Of course, isolated cases can slip through the cracks.

Fatigue among crew members can also occur among private jet pilots. For example, the case of a Bombardier Global 5000 on approach to Hong Kong International Airport. Alternatively, a Bombardier Global 6000 on approach to Liverpool Airport.

However, cases of crew fatigue are not isolated to private jets.

There is no significant difference between the quality of crew between airlines and private jets. Ultimately, the quality of the pilots is the difference between life and death when in the air. Aircraft systems rarely fail. Humans fail more often. Therefore, ensuring that you fly with licensed and experienced crews is the best way to be safe. Achieve this by arranging your flight with reputable companies.

Far Fewer People from a Private Terminal Is Better for Hygiene Safety

In terms of hygiene, private aviation offers a significant advantage over flying commercial.

Private jets, due to their limited passenger capacity, are easier to clean and sanitize thoroughly.

They are often cleaned after each flight, ensuring a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation.

The reduced number of passengers also lowers the risk of exposure to illnesses and viruses, further enhancing the safety and health of private jet passengers. 

On the contrary, commercial aircraft, due to their large capacity, are more challenging to clean comprehensively and frequently.

The high turnover of passengers and quick turnaround times between flights may lead to less thorough cleaning.

Furthermore, the large number of passengers can increase the risk of exposure to viruses and illnesses, posing a potential health risk.

Thus, the hygiene factor significantly contributes to the overall safety profile of private jets as compared to commercial ones.

Summary – Are Private Jets Safer than Commercial?

Ultimately, both private jets and commercial airlines are incredibly safe.

The fatality rate is extremely low, as is the general accident rate.

Arguing which one is safer is an aimless endeavor given the high safety of both methods. 

Flying is one of the safest ways to travel (unless you are flying yourself). Therefore, the safety is such that exceeding commercial safety will provide minimal benefits.

The private jet industry is heavily regulated, resulting in private jets being safer than ever before.

An area where if you fly private you will be safer is traveling through the airport.

Ultimately, the safety of private jet travel will depend on whether the air charter company and operator follow the safety procedures.

If they don’t, private jets will not be as safe as commercial travel. Avoid this issue by making sure you always book with a reputable charter company.


Benedict is a dedicated writer, specializing in in-depth discussions of private aviation ownership and its associated topics.


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