I'm curious about commercial airplane efficiency vs private jet efficiency.

I was trying to compare something like a modern 737 flying a full commercial flight from NYC to LA vs an Embraer Phenom 300 at full capacity (8 people) flying the same route.

I know there are many variations of the 737, so can we just use the most common commercially flown 737?

If fuel costs were the same (I understand that big airlines get discounts) is there a simple way to compare the flights simply in terms of cost of the flight, or how much fuel each plane would need for the flight? I didn't want to get into profit, crew, etc. Simply the cost of flying both planes from NYC to LA.

Thanks for any help.

  • $\begingroup$ You might be able to compare fuel usage but it would be hard to compare other costs (e.g. engine thrust "rental" charges, landing fees etc) $\endgroup$ Sep 30, 2014 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Check out Fuel Stop Planner. $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Sep 30, 2014 at 15:03

4 Answers 4


This has nothing to do with private vs. commercial. The size difference is what matters.

If you compare the absolute cost of moving the aircraft from NYC to LA, the 737 will be way more expensive, regardless of version. Since you asked only which one is more expensive, I don't see a need for detailed reasoning. Just use the data provided in this answer and it becomes obvious that fuel consumption will scale with the mass of the aircraft.

If all passengers have to share the cost, the cost per passenger will be much higher in case of the Phenom 300. Or almost any other Bizjet. The Phenom will even need to land somewhere enroute to refuel. The distance from NYC to LA is bigger than the maximum range with full payload.

But that kind of comparison does not make sense - both airplanes have been designed for different purposes, so their strengths are in their unique field of use. They do not transfer well to that of different aircraft types.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The cost per passenger will be much more in case of Phenom 300. See also aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/8130/…. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 30, 2014 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I know they don't compare very well and are designed for different purposes I was just trying to compare figures for curiositys sake. $\endgroup$
    – Shaun
    Sep 30, 2014 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec: Big typo, now corrected. Thanks for the remark! $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2014 at 6:26

Hourly fuel costs for a private jet can run from 800-2000/hr USD. So the 5 hours from NY-LA range from 4,000 to 10,000. But fuel is only part of the equation. On also has to figure in cost of ownership issues such as parking/hangar, insurance, engine reserves, avionics reserves, annual inspection reserve, etc. Also there are additional direct operating costs such as pilot salaries, crew salaries, tied down/gate fees.

For some fractional ownership programs where all of this is loaded it is not uncommon to end up with a 4,000-8,000/hr figure. This assumes you have already made a fractional payment of around 200,000-500,000 depending upon type of plane and percentage of ownership share (1/6, 1/12, ...).

There are also other programs where you rent the jet, crew, etc, but I have not looked at those figures.


Simply the cost of flying both planes from NYC to LA

The 737 will cost a lot more than the 8-seat bizjet. This kind of comparison is just about useless - direct cost per seat-kilometer is as basic as you can get, and even that one is very rough.

Crew and maintenance are inescapable costs so excluding them makes the calculations even more skewed. Landing fees are based on gross weight class divided into the number of passengers, facility fees are actual number of passengers on board, parking is by size, navigation is based on ability-to-pay (the 737 pays, because it's a commercial flight. A privately owned Cessna gets ATC for free). The bizjet can use smaller airfields that can be hours closer to the group's destination so once you factor in ground transportation (and lower airport fees) and employee time the bizjet can actually work out cheaper per seat than Delta. But you do have to consider everything.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your input. Is there an easy way to compare the cost of such flights if they were both commercial? I know the big airlines aren't really flying Phenomes but if there was a way to ballpark the cost either total or as you said cost per seat-km/mi $\endgroup$
    – Shaun
    Sep 30, 2014 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Private flights can be dramatically cheaper for non-hub flights. A few years back we planned a trip that could be done airline or private. Airline quoted $650 a piece round trip. Private the costs when split among the 6 of us worked out to only 10% of that and was a 2 hour flight instead of the commercial 6 hour trip (with 2 flights and a layover)! $\endgroup$ Sep 30, 2014 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ What does it mean that "navigation is based on ability to pay"? At least in the US, I thought that there are no user fees for ATC, it's all paid for via taxation. So everyone gets ATC "for free", although everyone also pays via fuel and other taxes. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Sep 30, 2014 at 20:22

I just found this list of various plane models and information about them such as average fuel burn and total variable cost/hour. If anyone is interested: http://www.duncanaviation.aero/files/aircraft_sales/Business-Jet-Model-Market-Summary.pdf


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