The private-jet set knows exactly how to navigate the pitfalls of intimate in-flight space. But as such travel becomes more mainstream, newbie passengers face constant quandaries at 40,000 feet. To untangle the mysteries, DuJour assembled a team of experts: Jodi R.R. Smith, president of etiquette consultancy Mannersmith; Carolyn Paddock, a veteran private-jet staffer and founder of the blog In-Flight Insider; and etiquette consultant Grace Connell. Behold their plane protocol.
DON’T BE TARDY FOR THE TARMAC
“There is no such thing as being fashionably late for a private jet,” Smith warns. “It’s exactly the same as a commercial flight. Be early.”
Light aircraft have stringent, safety-related weight restrictions, so travelers toting heavy bags will rarely be repeat guests. Send golf clubs or ski equipment by FedEx or UPS. “And, remember, it’s not the pilot’s job to carry your bag onto the plane,” Smith says.
FASHION (ALWAYS) SOARS
“Dress better than you think you should have to,” Connell says. Save the flip-flops for the beach, and don’t chafe if you’re asked to remove your shoes to spare the often light interiors. Paddock recalls working a private jet where a chairman noted one of his executives had forgotten to shave: “He was so annoyed, he made him sit in the back of the airplane.”
CHOOSE SEATS WISELY
The first few rows are reserved for the host—”like the front pews at a church wedding,” says Connell. To dodge seating snafus, try to board last or, Paddock suggests, head to the rear and ask the flight attendant for guidance.
Follow your host’s lead: Paddock recalls one flight where the boss was on a strict Paleo diet, so the galley was catered caveman-style. Also, don’t be too specific: Ask for a coffee, rather than a macchiato, to avoid the sticky moment of “Sorry, we don’t have that.”
FORGET THE MEMORIES
“Do not try to sneak specialty items on an inbound flight. Customs sometimes brings dogs onboard, and if contrabrand is found, you are in big trouble,” Paddock says. Once a staffer forgot to jettison a fruit basket; the fine was thousands of dollars. Leave room service in your room.
It’s gauche to tip the staff or offer to contribute to the costs. “Are you going to take your Amex out and try to pitch in $10K for fuel?” laughs Connell. Instead, make a reciprocal gesture after landing.
SILENCE IS GOLDEN
What happens on the jet stays on the jet. “One of the great things about private flying is that anything can happen,” notes Paddock, “and you don’t want to be the blabbermouth.”