The upside of using a private jet for business travel is clear: avoiding most of what's frustrating about air travel. Flying on business on a private jet may appear to be profligate, but there's actually a compelling business case for it.
According to the National Business Aviation Association, companies large and small are using private jets to accomplish everything from closing a deal on short notice to providing a rapid response to a manu-facturing or customer problem. But what about price? For companies that can't afford their own jet, fractional ownership is an alternative. But that is best suited for firms flying 200 hours a year or more in private aircraft. Charter is more realistic, since it's on-demand. According to airfare analyst Bob Harrell, charter is competitive with--and sometimes cheaper than--certain airline routes if several employees travel together.
Charter costs aren't like commercial fares, which vary according to how far in advance a flight is booked. Aircraft are usually chartered by the hour. Because hourly rates are based on how long an aircraft is actually airborne, a strong tailwind will lower the price and dodging storms will increase it. Another pricing model, unit pricing, can be based on hours or distance.
Either way, be aware of surcharges for fuel, landing fees, ramp use, parking the aircraft, overnight charges, catering, deicing, taxes, etc.
To evaluate a charter operator, look at the number of years it's been in business, then review its credentials--its operating certificate, safety record and insurance coverage. And check references scrupulously.