How I Ended Up On A Gulfstream IV


If you’re following me on Twitter or Instagram you may have noticed that yesterday I was more giddy than a tween girl with One Direction meet-and-greet passes. That’s because I had the chance to fly from Seattle Boeing Field to San Diego on a Gulfstream IV all by myself (well, plus one flight attendant and two pilots).

How did that happen? Well, lets rewind to Monday…

I was sitting at home on my couch trying to write some blog posts. Yesterday (Tuesday) was actually the blog’s sixth anniversary, so I was working on writing a post to express my appreciation to you guys for all the support over the years — I really do appreciate it (more on that later this week!). I got sidetracked and was checking my email, when I saw this in my inbox from Rick, a blog reader that I had been talking to:

This is going to be out of left field…..

But do you have any interest in riding on a Gulfstream IV tomorrow from Seattle to San Diego?  Free.

Now I’m not going to lie, I get emails like this a lot. There are two things that made this one slightly different:

  • The email didn’t inform me that I was entitled to a sum of $10,000,000.00 and that I was the closest living relative to the deceased prince of some country in Africa
  • The email didn’t direct me to go to my nearest Western Union branch and transfer money to someone at Diamond Bank of Africa

I could describe my reaction, or I could just share how I responded:

Are you f*&%ing kidding me?! If that were possible I’m in, hands down, end of story. My life would be complete.

I hopped on the phone with Rick for a minute, and he explained the situation. Charter clients often have to pay for positioning to get the airplane to their location for the flight they’ve booked. This positioning creates an “empty leg.” Empty legs are usually 30 minute to two hour flight segments and are very common. In fact, apparently a third of private jets actually fly empty.

Rick further explained that a good broker will work to find their client a plane that requires as little positioning as possible. Ideally the charter client pays for only the time they occupy the plane — “occupied flight time” — but if their schedule is rigid and they require a specific plane type then paying for some positioning is almost inevitable.

 He cautioned that things could change, including:
  • The charter out of San Diego could be canceled, meaning the flight down there would be canceled/rescheduled
  • Someone could still pay to book the jet down to San Diego, or to somewhere else in California (after all, some revenue is better than no revenue)
  • There may be one other person riding along as well

Of course I was 110% flexible here and literally wasn’t expecting to be on the flight until I boarded and the door closed. I mean, a Gulfstream IV usually costs $6,500-7,500 per hour to charter, plus a 7.5% federal excise tax. So this is a charter that would have easily cost $20,000.


I was so excited Monday night that I had a hard time sleeping, and woke up on Tuesday morning fully expecting to have an email from Rick saying that they had sold the leg or the charter client out of San Diego had canceled. But instead he had emailed me to let me know that it was still a “go.”

Not only that, but he emailed me the tail number of the plane that would be flying me and the company operating the plane (AirFuga), where I should be dropped off (Aeroflight at Boeing Field), the anticipated flight time (2hr24min), etc. He recommended that I arrive by 11:45AM, as the crew was eying a 12:30PM departure time.

So I left my apartment at around 11AM and can’t even begin to describe how excited I was. I was still convinced it wouldn’t actually happen, but that didn’t stop me from being excited.

Anyway, it actually did happen, and in the next installment I’ll share my thoughts on the private jet experience. To be honest I was skeptical. I always told myself “well, surely it can’t be better than flying first class on a top international airline. After all the plane is more spacious and can you really beat the service you’d get in Singapore Airlines first class?” Boy, was this eye opening.

While Rick arranged this without even the expectation of a review, I do want to sincerely give a HUGE thanks to Rick Lashbrook at private jet charters for arranging this trip and Denielle Pintos of Fuga, Inc., the Part 135 Charter Operator of the gorgeous G-IV.

Never even in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d have the opportunity to fly private, and to be able to do so on the sixth anniversary of my blog no less was incredible beyond words.

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  1. You deserve it! You get offers like this because people really like your ‘voice’ and what you have to say is valuable to them.

    Looking forward to the trip report.

  2. OK Ben – now we are done with you, we all cannot match flying in a private jet, nor can any of the miles and points provide us that opportunity… see you … in a few years when you are back to commercial aviation!

    Hehe… just kidding my friend – this is amazing! Cannot wait for the trip report, glad you got a gift on your blog’s birthday! Well deserved… but how did you get back to SEA from SAN?

  3. If you didn’t fly back on an American commuter jet in economy, then I don’t know how you will ever fully savor the private jet experience!! Seriously great, though, very happy and fortuitous to fall on the sixth anniversary!

  4. The next time you write a hip-hop song, you’ll have to mention this experience in the lyrics. You’ve officially gone from medium pimping to big pimping.

  5. Thanks for all the kind words, guys!

    @ Apu — Funny enough I’m actually flying out of LAX this week to start my China Southern/Korean Air trip, so I decided to spend a night in San Diego and Los Angeles and continue on from there. This was hands down the most comfortable award ticket positioning flight I’ve ever taken. 😀

  6. Sometimes I get to ride one of our corporate shuttles from LA to CO & MO and back. Mostly it’s a Citation XLS but I hopped a ride on our Hawker once.

    Cannot beat private vs commercial. No TSA, private airports, and the rental car sitting on the tarmac. Heck, they even put out a little red carpet sometimes.

    One of the funnier things is the little GPS stuck to the window. It’s a small Garmin just like you would see in your car.

  7. Now THAT’S flying! Can’t wait to read your review. Your very own private jet. What an amazing opportunity!

  8. Was Janice your flight attendant? Did you take a shower onboard? Did you drink 1998 Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rose? Did you get a rimowa kit and pajamas? Was there a Porsche waiting for you on the tarmac? Did it gave you access to a first class terminal? As the answers are probably “no”, how can you say it was better than flying first class on a top international airline? 🙂
    Anyway, congratulations on your blog 6th anniversary. This gift you got just shows how much your readers enjoy your work.

  9. Congratulations Lucky! At first, I thought how ‘lucky’ you were, and while that would be appropo, I rather think you deserved this for all you’ve provided to all of us reading your blog. Happy 6th Anniversary (birthday?) and cannot think of a better gift for you!
    PS @ Rick, whereever you are: through Lucky, please let me know the next time you have any such flights ex-PDX!!

  10. It is still not a flat bed. Did notice the couch on the side, but that would only sleep one. That leaves six people without a flat bed… Assuming the plane is full.

  11. @ MrPaul and anyone else interested:

    There are few private airports, and very few of those could accommodate a larger plane the size of most business airplanes. There are about 17,000 PUBLIC airports in the US, and only about 500 with scheduled airline service. The remaining airports are still public airports, paid for with your tax dollars, and they can and often are used by airlines, UPS, private planes (and of course not just jets), military, etc. etc. It’s just a world that most people don’t know about.

    One of the main conveniences of private aviation (business jets, hundreds of thousands of private pilots in the US alone) is that there is almost always an airport closer to where you want to go than one of the few airports served by the airlines. As a private flight, I could go to SFO, but if I have an appointment in Palo Alto a few miles away, it will be much more convenient to land at the Palo Alto airport KPAO. Just an example…..

  12. Congrats, Lucky! Was it slightly more comfy that the Czech Airlines flight?

    FYI, there are sites online that list/sell space on such empty legs. Not economy-ticket cheap but cheaper than paying for a chartered plane outright.

  13. My dad flew on VVIP flights with various heads of states before (he was a cabinet member), and he told me some interesting stories. I imagine that for you, the only thing to top this is to fly on AF1 or Al Waleed’s A380!

  14. Somedays, I wish I was you, Ben.

    Other days… I’m just in denial and actually wish I was you. :-p

    Looks awesome.

  15. @ Mohan P – But the flight was only from SEA to SAN, which is short. Experience is more than the flat bed!

  16. Lucky,

    I worked on the ground crew at VNY for a few years, and you pose an interesting question with a comparison to CX F.

    First, the ground services suck ass. There is no LH FCT, or CX F lounge. But there isn’t supposed to be… you’re supposed to drive up to the plane, get on and go, with no TSA as you point out. So the ground services are really bad, or really wonderful, depending on how you look at it.

    Onboard, the food sucks. There are dedicated in flight catering companies, but when I get to ride on one on my own, I’d direct the flight crew to order from a 5* restaurant and have it delivered.

    I’m actually curious as to what your inflight impressions are, because I might actually think it’s a toss up. (Now riding on a BBJ would be a different story…) For me, most small jets are transportation, not style (I mean small small, not GIV small)

    What you really pay for is scheduling convenience, reliability, and privacy. For “short” flights in less densely populated areas, those jets can be a huge time saver.

    I once fueled up a GV for a celeb flying from LA to London. The fuel bill alone was $13,000.

  17. Congrats, Ben! It seriously couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more enthusiastic, more appreciative human being.

  18. Ben; if you loved the GIV, you would be over the moon for the G5. It’s incredible!

    I know Ben said he would like the BBJ and it is a nice A/C, but it’s so limited in the airports it can operate, the G5’s are better for global access. The BBj’s are nice….but, they are not a Gulfstream.

    Just sayin’

  19. We called these flights “Ferries” at AA.

    Planes fly completely empty when a big bird goes for scheduled checks between DFW and Alliance or Tulsa AA airport. Or from other airports to position them.

    Aren’t you glad you have wonderful readers that enjoy all your crazy travels?? Outta boy !!

  20. Ben,
    I must be one of your few readers who actually flew on private jets before flying business or first class internationally.
    I flew on them to various places in the midwest ~ 10 yrs ago.
    Luckily not on my dime.
    This was just after the river flooded and the hangars had pictures of the sandbags around the hangars which saved the parked planes.
    The main advantage in those days was that you knew everyone on the plane and so no security.
    The plane took off early or late when all showed up.
    The airports we landed in felt like bus stops, with no luxuries, smelly toilets like a highway rest stop etc etc, but it was very exclusive.
    Most luggage was in the hold or behind

  21. That’s awesome Ben. Couldn’t believe the IG pictures. Now if the plane only had some Hello Kitty pillows on it…

  22. I’ve been fortunate enough to fly privately a few times, thanks to my company.

    Nothing beats the convenience of no security or no terminals.

    However, it can be different than the “international first class” experience if your flight isn’t catered to the same levels. Usually the client dictates the catering. Mine certainly aren’t!

  23. Good times! Now if only the folks from Drive Thru Boba were on board then you could say ALL your dreams have come true (hmmmm, could that be an aspirational goal?)!

  24. And I suppose in then next segment the cockpit crew becomes disabled, and you have to land the plane—which you do, of course, by referring to the flight manual and instruction pilot training DVD’s you happened to have with you?

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