Forget the 1 percent. When you fly private on the big jets, you're dealing with the .0001 percent. It's a whole different kind of Mile High Club, and not just anyone (with the ability to squeeze into a suitcase) can join. Surprisingly, though, most people who fly private aren't the owners, or chartering the airplane. They're just the entourage like you and me who get the invite from the well-to-do brother-in-law, generous friend who sold their company or, least enjoyable of options, the work trip with the boss. Whatever your ticket in, if you're lucky enough to be granted entry to the world of private plane travel, think of it as an invitation to your host's home in the sky. A little jetiquette goes far beyond not sticking your gum under the seat. And if your host is the boss? Well, then, here's the insider tips on avoiding those career-limiting moves.
1. Don't arrive late. Unless you're Tony Stark, don't keep the plane, or your host, waiting. Expert pilot David Zipkin is the owner of Tradewind Aviation, which regularly flies some of the top CEOs. His experience? "If you're not on time, be prepared to be left behind." CEOs are not the types of people who have any tolerance for waiting. You already have the luxury of bypassing security and keeping your shoes on. Arriving late is a major party foul.
2. Celeb spotting. Private planes don't take off from the same terminal as commercial flights. You're not even breathing the same air as the First Class riffraff when you charter a flight. It should not surprise you to see celebs in the grown-up's boarding area. But with great privilege comes great responsibility. Requests for autographs are a faux pas. Celebs may be gracious lest they end up on TMZ, but they're flying private because they want to be left alone. For your part, play it cool as a cucumber.
3. Boarding the flight. Unless you own the plane or chartered the flight, don't even think about boarding before your host, who is referred to in private-plane speak as the Lead Passenger. Also, a word to the wise: This isn't Southwest. Seats aren't first come, first served. Your host (or boss) likely has a favorite seat, and you don't want the awkward situation of being asked to move. Or even worse, having the big guy or gal seethe in the jump seat at your poor manners on that cross-country flight.
4. Good grub. A nice host may send you the Nobu menu or arrange for your Lobster Thermidor prior to the flight. After all, it's good to be king. However, if you haven't discussed food, don't reach for the filet mignon until after your host makes his or her selection. This is a private flight, but often only limited quantities of meals are ordered. Like seating arrangements, take your host's lead to ensure you're not overstepping your bounds.
5. Chill out and behave yourself. There's no room for going Charlie Sheen on a private plane, or having that embarrassing tiff with your significant other. David Zara, founder of Zen Air, reminds us that those who fly private do so to avoid all the drama of flying with the general population. If you have children, make sure to give them a crash course in Miss Manners. Follow the lead of your host and don't take liberties.
And above all else, don't act like this is your first rodeo. Sure, you'll be like a kid at Christmas the first time you fly private. Play your cards right with your host, and it's something you could quickly get used to.
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