Flights without passengers on board are referred to as empty legs. They occur when a charter jet is booked only one-way, for example from Zurich to Paris, and afterwards is “free” and would have to fly back “empty”.
But if the passengers want to fly back some days later the aircraft would have to fly again “empty” to Paris creating two possibilities to book your flights dramatically cheaper – if your desired routings match the “empty legs”.
Airliners aim for maximum utilization, which is why they normally would never take off without passengers on board contrary to private jets which focus exclusively on the wishes and needs of their passengers. Thus, empty flights are quite common – according to industry estimates around one third of all flights in business aviation are empty legs.
How to reasonably use empty legs
However, compared to on demand charter those “empty legs” are bound to some conditions. On regular charter flights you determine when you want to fly, on “empty legs” you normally have to comply to what the operator offers
In return empty legs are significantly lower priced. Depending on the provider, the season and the general availability they are up to 75% lower in price – whilst offering the same service.
Restrictions of empty legs
Empty leg flights of course suffer some limitations. As mentioned earlier, you most probably need to adapt to the schedules of the operator and you are therefore not as flexible in your planning.
In addition, empty leg availability always depends on the passengers of the regular charter flight. If they change on short notice – for example flying earlier or later, taking another route or another jet type – these changes have an influence on the empty leg flight, too.
If they fly another route or at another time it might even happen that the empty leg is cancelled or the price adjusted due to those circumstances. Having said that do not rely on an empty leg if you have important appointments. In this case, on demand charter is the way better choice.
However, empty leg flights are a cost-effective alternative to conventional on demand charter flights if you have an alternative or do not have to depend on a specific arrival time.
How to find empty legs that suit you
The difficulty of finding the right empty leg flight varies from route to route and from season to season. During in the holiday seasons the number of charter flights increases in general and thus the chance of finding a matching empty flight.
In recent years platforms focusing on selling empty flights have emerged. In our opinion it makes more sense to stay in touch with a reliable operator who informs its customers about upcoming empty flights. This way you benefit from the personal contact and the experience of the operator – two important factors e not existent on pure selling platforms.
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