Tipping the pilot on a private jet first and foremost depends on how you typically go about chartering a jet. Do you own or lease the jet, have fractional ownership, or belong to a jet card program? To provide some context around tipping the pilot of your private jet, we’ll first break down the various ways in which to charter your aircraft of choice.
Of course, you can own a jet outright, which is the most expensive option. Full jet ownership might mean employing a crew, or at least regularly contracting the same pilot and in-flight staff. Then there’s fractional jet ownership, which involves payment upfront for shared use of a jet over the coming year. Fractional jet owners are also likely to encounter the same pilot and flight crew on a regular basis. If you own a jet, are leasing it, or have a fractional ownership stake, you may be able to tip the pilot at the beginning or end of each year (or both), if you regularly fly with the same captain. And you’ll want to consider the fact that you have a different rapport with a pilot you see regularly, and that your gratuity is also going toward building a long-term relationship with the pilot.
The nuance to chartering a private jet doesn’t end here. Instead of leasing or fractional ownership, there are clients who have private jet cards, or independent charterers taking a one-off jet for an event or vacation. In terms of cost, a one-way private jet charter typically runs $4,000 to $13,000. For this type of jet encounter, you’ll want to tip after each charter service. If you’re part of a jet card program through an aviation company, you’ll pay $100,000 to $200,000 annually to charter your preferred jet with as little as 24 hours notice—usually at a discounted private jet price. Jet card holders will typically also tip after each charter, because they tend to use different aircrafts and have a new captain for each flight.
While tipping a pilot on a commercial aircraft would be completely out of the ordinary, tipping a private jet captain makes more sense. Not only does the private jet captain plan and fly your customized route, he or she also may assist with your bags and help clean and maintain the aircraft before you board. None of those responsibilities would fall on a commercial pilot’s to-do list, which is why tipping a private jet captain is a good idea—though it’s not always expected.
Tips to private jet pilots can vary from $20 to $1,000. If we’re assuming a one-way charter is $4,000 to $13,000, that means at the highest end, charterers are tipping their pilots 10%. However, most charterers who tip likely hover around 5% of the charter price. If your cross-country private jet price is $6,000, and you want to tip 5% to 10%, that means tipping $300 to $600. This tipping rule of thumb applies to one-off charters or each flight a jet card holder takes.
On the other hand, if you own or lease a jet, have fractional jet ownership, or have another flight arrangement where you work with your pilot frequently, you might start your relationship with a tip to ensure the best service. If your captain enhances your jetsetting experience, you may then want to give him or her a lump sum gratuity at the end of the year. There’s little precedent set for a lump sum tip on top of the private jet price. The amount you tip your regularly pilot toward year end is at your discretion, and should consider how often you flew together, what routes you took (did you jet around the world, or just fly Burbank to Vegas and back?), and your general dynamic.