You can probably eschew packing the toothbrush and PJs, since the chances are excellent your VLJ point-to-point carrier will get you home the same day as your meeting. That said, there are other potential differences between air-taxi and scheduled airline travel that may influence how you go about prepping for a departure. Here's are some simple tips to help you on your way.
Travel Checklist - Things To Do Before You Book
By Elliot Borin, Air TaxiFlights.com Staff Writer - © 2009, Reproduction without permission strictly prohibited. All company and product names in this
document are the property of their respective copyright and/or trademark holders.
Though it doesn't quite turn the world of flying from Point A to Point B upside down, the air-taxi revolution is rapidly changing some basic dynamics of business travel.
For example, flying two people to a business meeting via a scheduled airline will always cost twice as much as sending one. Some air taxi operators, however, will transport two or three team members on the same flight for a single flat rate.
Also, arriving on a scheduled airline flight you'll virtually always find a rental car counter somewhere in the airport, if not right in the terminal where you land. Traveling by air taxi, you may or may not, but it probably won't matter because you'll be landing so close to your destination that taking a cab the rest of the way will be cheaper and more convenient.
While almost all travel skills ("don't forget the battery charger for the laptop") you've mastered in the past are also applicable to going by air taxi, here are a few specific tips for most efficiently using this new 21st Century transportation medium.
-- Make sure you utilize the "best" departure and arrival airports
This is less silly than it sounds. The whole purpose and beauty of air-taxi service is that it makes traveling more cost and time efficient by taking passengers directly from a convenient community airport near where they are to another convenient community airport near where they want to go without the expense, hours and stress necessary to make the same trip using scheduled airlines and major airports.
Remember, however, that when flying into a major urban area or large suburban region the definition of "convenient" and "near" is very elastic. These areas may have two, three or six small airports within a 40 mile radius, any one of which may be best for you. (Think of making a sales call in Chicago's northern suburbs and unknowingly booking an air taxi flight to an airport on the south side -- how inconvenient would that would be?)
Hint: Thousands and thousands of airports throughout the U.S.A. are now capable of handling piston-powered and VLJ air-taxi flights, but most operators, to avoid confusion, limit the number of airports they list in ads and on their websites to the most popular. If you look carefully, you'll usually find some small print saying the operator also flies to "hundreds of other airports" with a specified service area. Just because you don't see an airport you know exists listed, don't assume the carrier doesn't fly there. Always call and inquire.
-- Remember an air-taxi flight is not exactly the same as an earthbound taxi ride
If you take a cab ride from one side of town to another you can be virtually certain, barring a sudden cab driver strike, of being able to catch a cab back after your meeting. While most air taxi round trips are expected to depart and return the same day, the nature of air travel and its relationship to Mother Nature's weather whims means there is always a one or two percent possibility that a sudden squall, wind storm or fog will leave you stranded overnight.
That possibility is not strong enough to merit packing an overnight bag unless you're flying places where severe inclement weather is predicted -- Florida with a hurricane hovering offshore, Montana in the snow season -- but you should be aware that the same "act of God and the FAA" strictures that bind the major airlines also apply to air-taxi operators.
Hint: Check the weather at your destination city before departure. If it seems like a storm or other disturbance is moving in it may be possible to advance or shorten your meeting so that you can get out of Dodge before the weather breaks. Return flights on demand are one of the many air taxi flexibility benefits that airlines can't match.
-- Check out the competition
Hard as it may be for many as-yet woefully underserved business travelers, particularly those in the Southwest and West Coast, air taxi competition in some regions -- Florida, New England, D.C., New York, Atlanta -- has arrived far sooner than many experts predicted.
While this offers some options price wise -- in some areas you may, for example, be able choose between somewhat slower, less expensive piston-engine service or somewhat faster, more expensive VLJ service -- the big advantage you have right now is the option to choose between carriers using a pay-per-seat pricing model and those using price-per-plane. Per seat is almost always cheaper for a single person, price-per-plane is almost always less costly for corporate teams.
Hint: If you're not on a tight schedule when using a pay-per-seat carrier such as Dayjet, you might want to tell them you might be willing to travel with one or more intermediate stops. Pay-per-seat operators frequently offer substantial discounts to passengers willing to forgo getting from Point A to Point B nonstop.
-- Check your bags--
No, not at the ticket counter or sidewalk check-in. "Checking" your bags in that sense and watching them disappear, perhaps forever, on a conveyor belt to one of the rings of hell will no longer be part of your travel experience once you start flying via air taxi.
Worrying about whether -- or how well -- your property insurance covers expensive items lost by air carriers will also be a thing of the past, since you'll watch your baggage being handed into and taken out of the aircraft.
You should, however, check to make sure you understand your specific air-taxi provider's baggage policy. Many use the traditional method by which you're allowed one or two carry-ons and pay extra for anything beyond that, others go by weight and a few calculate "excess baggage" on the combined weight of the passenger and his luggage.
Hint: If you're traveling with a lot of fairly heavy gear -- cinema cameras, lights, stands and reflectors or samples to stock a trade show exhibit, you might save money by flying with a "pay-per-plane" operator. Most of them allow you to put any combination of people and FAA-acceptable cargo you want on the plane as long as the sum doesn't exceed the aircraft's rated load limits and the baggage can be stored in a safe manner.
-- If you need ground transportation, book it ahead of time
Don't depend on finding a rental car agency or ground taxi waiting at the airport. Most air taxi carriers will be happy to tell you which ground transportation companies service the airports they fly into and some carriers will even make arrangement for one of them to meet your flight when it arrives. In other cases, you'll have to call and make the reservation yourself. Either way, you'll usually save time if you don't wait until you're on the ground to call a cab.
-- Keep a sharp eye out for bargains
An increasing number of air-taxi operators are offering special discounts -- often called "empty-leg" discounts -- on flights required to redeploy airplanes for later flights. Discounts on flights between specific city pairs taking off within certain two or four-hour time windows, and package air taxi/hotel discount rates to popular tourist destinations are also starting to appear.
Also, if you, or your company, plan to become a steady user of air-taxi services, be sure to ask your carrier about "block-purchase" deals. Many carriers offer substantial discounts on packages of five, ten, 20 or 50 hours purchased in advance on a pre-paid basis.
Hint: Periodically check AirTaxiFlights.com's Specials Page
for up-to-date air-taxi discount offers.