If you're thinking about a last-minute private-plane splurge to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, you may need to bring a lot of cash—and patience—because even if you can afford the $250,000 starter package for a charter, you're going to need some good connections.
About 1,000 private jets are expected to descend on the country, competing for a limited number of landing spots at nearly a dozen far-flung airports.
"Yes, its going to be expensive, and you need to be flexible," said Jeff Trance, the senior vice president of Air Partner (Private Jets North America,) A flight from New York to Brazil and a few of its cities for different games could easily start at $250,000, he said. Plan on an extra 25 percent for the crew's lodgings, your own high-priced hotel, security and maybe even helicopter connections from the airports.
Extra security goes with the cash. "'Are you willing to have some cash in your pocket to make things happen,'" one pilot in the air was told while requesting a landing spot in another country, Trance said. "It's the way of the world down there. It's not unusual for the crews for have large amounts of cash to make things happen."
By the first day of the tournament, already 83 percent of the 108,000 landing and takeoff slots available throughout Brazil over the 45 days of the event were booked, according to the Air Force's Department of Airspace Control.
"We had to be very strict about this so as to avoid the difficulties that happened in South Africa in the last World Cup. The slots available are enough to meet the demand," Brazil's Minister of Civil Aviation Wellington Moreira Franco said in a statement last week.
In all, the Brazilian Airport Infrastructure Company is predicting 1,000 executive jets, mainly Brazilian, to be flying during the tournament. Besides the locals, Americans are expected to travel in droves as they were the second-biggest buyers of World Cup tickets after the Brazilians, according to FIFA.
The competition in the air will heat up in tandem with the action on the field, said Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly, a global booking platform for private jets. The first round of group matches at 12 stadiums runs through June 26, followed by the group of 16 at eight stadiums and then the quarterfinals, semifinals and 3rd place and final matches.
"PrivateFly has seen far fewer private jet movements so far to the World Cup in Brazil than the industry was expecting," Twidell said in an email to CNBC. "However this is quite normal during the opening stages of international sporting events. The soccer games in the early stages of the World Cup are scheduled months in advance. That allows a wide selection of scheduled airline options to be arranged. It is only on the later stages of sporting events, when teams progress to the knockout stages, that travel plans are organised at the last minute."
That pattern has been typical for past World Cups as well as Olympic events, he said.
But Brazil has a few of its own unique hurdles, including the high prices, limited aircraft and landing slots. "Brazilian private jets are charging a premium during the World Cup month," Twidell said. "For example a Lear 55 (seven-seater) from Rio to Sao Paulo would normally cost $9,500. This week this has jumped to $20,000."
Even if you can get up in the air, it may not be easy to secure landing space. "With so many extra airlines flying for the World Cup, Brazilian airports are experiencing peak number of movements," Twidell said. "Availability of slots for private jets is extremely limited and reserved for FIFA VIPs and officials. Not many airports are slot-coordinated for private jets under normal circumstances but during major events, private jet scheduling at airports has to lose some of its usual flexibility."
Trance said anyone looking to book a private jet to the World Cup isn't the typical rabid sports fan. This is more of the C-level senior management who is already in the habit of traveling by private jet, rather than the guys at the pub passing the hat. Trance said most of the people on his company's jets booked months in advance.
"So far, so good," he said. "If you have the hotels and the planes and the parking, everything's good. No problems yet."
The soccer tournament concludes July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.