AIN Blog: A Little Perspective

 - July 31, 2012, 10:17 AM
A Wells Fargo stagecoach
If you wanted to travel 200 years ago, a stagecoach was the way to go. Ponder that before complaining about traveling in today's business jets.

These days, everybody complains about the airlines: rotten food, TSA hassles, cramped seating, long delays, lost luggage. And while private jet travelers are a decidedly happier lot, they’ve been known to offer the occasional gripe as well: the charter flight lacked sufficient baggage space, the catering service overcharged, the FBO disappointed.

I think it’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and garner some perspective. And what better way to do that than to compare the typical business-jet flight with how you might have been traveling if you’d happened to have been born a mere 200 years ago? Here’s a look, with stagecoach details courtesy of Wikipedia:


Business jet: Count on reclining, oversized fine-leather seats, some with massage function. Larger jets may offer dining and conference rooms, master bedrooms with private baths and galleys stocked with fine china and gourmet food.

Stagecoach: Comforts? We’re talking 15 inches per passenger on a wooden bench inside the coach, and that’s if you were lucky; more than half a dozen travelers typically had to sit on the roof. Those in middle rows rode with their knees dovetailed. Passengers on the center seat had only a leather strap to support their backs. People spent entire journeys with bags and mail pouches between their feet. You think you’ve had bumpy rides on your business jet? Try traversing unpaved rocky roads in a horse-drawn coach—for a week.


Business jet: Most flights are too short to require a stop. FBOs at both ends offer such amenities as opulent lounges and meeting rooms equipped for videoconferencing. Some incorporate fitness centers.

Stagecoach: You could expect brief stops at primitive way stations, but getting off the coach at one of them could be a mistake. If it left without you, you could be stuck for days. You could try sleeping en route but Wells Fargo cautioned passengers against snoring loudly or using fellow passengers’ shoulders as pillows. As for exercise, you might have to periodically get off the stagecoach and walk, to give the horses a break. You might also have to push the stagecoach up a hill or out of sand or mud.


Business jet: Some models approach the speed of sound. You can leave New York or L.A. at lunchtime and easily make dinner on the other coast.

Stagecoach: Figure on four to seven miles an hour, with distances covered daily averaging 70 to 120 miles. With luck, you might be able to depart New York City before breakfast and reach the state capital of Albany in time for a midnight dinner.


Business jet: Cabins are smoke-free, pressurized and climate-controlled.

Stagecoach: Temperatures ranged from sweltering to frigid. Wells Fargo provided buffalo robes in cold weather but warned that “hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.” The company didn’t permit cigars or pipes but allowed chewing tobacco so long as you “spit with the wind, not against it.”


Business jet: Passengers enjoy Wi-Fi, Internet access, widescreen high-definition video, moving maps, noise-cancelling headphones and more.

Stagecoach: Um, no.


Business jet: Safety issues and accidents are extremely rare.

Stagecoach: Wells Fargo often advised travelers to pack a pistol or knife, but to avoid alarming passengers it forbade any onboard discussion of stagecoach robberies or Indian uprisings, both of which were common. The company also instructed passengers to remain calm in the event of runaway horses, as “leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured [or] at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.”

Now what was that you were saying about how your FBO’s espresso machine wasn’t working properly and your flight took off 20 minutes late?


I think you've missed it. Your first paragraph referenced airlines. I think most of us would make a comparison flying coach twenty years ago to flying coach today. Pass the peanuts.

Business jet might be compared to a private train car. Pass the caviar.

Which brings us to the bottom line, price. A high price is payed for those FBO espresso machines to work...and for the business jet to arrive on time. Comparatively not so much for the stagecoach.

I think charter passengers have unrealistic expectations of baggage and cabin space, particularly in the light jet market. They drive up with an SUV or two crammed to the ceiling with extremely large suitcases, order so much catering that the galley on a G550 would be overloaded, and still expect to fill all the seats in the cabin and be comfortable. Get real. I've also had customers complain about how "tiny" the plane is. These are often the same customers who haggle over a hundred dollars on a charter quote.

You want light jet prices? You're going to get a light jet. You're not going to be able to stand up in it or stretch your arms out from side to side without hitting a seatmate. Don't be so cheap that your charter broker beats up five operators in the hope someone will cave and give you the trip at a loss. Bring a reasonable amount of baggage for your overnight trip - not your entire wardrobe. Don't expect big platters of catering or perfectly presented hot food. Understand you're on a LIGHT JET. You get what you pay for.

Re: Stan - This is the sort of thing the jet charter broker or company should really be discussing with them before flying, especially if someone if using the private jet to go on a shopping trip - not that uncommon in Europe.

If luggage is important, its straightforward enough to book a bigger aircraft with more capacity, but when they roll up in their car (or van) it's a bit late.

AIN’s Business Jet Traveler magazine has been working since 2003 to provide charter, fractional and private jet passengers with information to help them make the right choices when flying via business aviation. See this article from 2009 for an example.

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