How To Escape a Large City By Air

Say you are in the big city and disaster strikes. No matter if it’s an earthquake, flood, pandemic, infrastructure shut down, or (heaven forbid) Cthulhu awakens, one thing’s for certain: the roads will probably be a no-go. The first thing most people do when danger is imminent is pack up their roadster and get the hell out of Dodge. That means roads and highways are likely to be congested.

That is why traveling by air is your best bet. Planes operate in an area of less congested traffic and fewer people are able to book a flight at a moment’s notice. As such, flying should be your number one priority when it may be time to hightail it out of the big city.

It’s not as easy as it sounds though, Disaster affects air travel too so if you are not prepared then your plans for air travel escape might fall flat. Not only do you need a plan to physically get yourself to the airport, you need a backup in case your initial flying plans fall through. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to escape a large city by air when disaster strikes.

Should You Even Leave?

The first thing is to figure out if you even should leave. Contrary to what you might think, sometimes the best course of action during a disaster is to hunker down and wait it out. According to disaster experts, the number one thing that drives chaos during a disaster is panic and mass hysteria. The mass exodus of people attempting to leave might end up causing more harm than if people just stayed put and planned for their stay.

In cases where evacuation may cause more harm than good, here is the general strategy. Stock up on the basic supplies, such as food and water, and other necessities like first aid. The CDC and FEMA both have useful lists of necessary items to stockpile.

If you are planning to stay you should also invest in a generator. This would be most useful in the case where the electric power grid fails. There are a ton of gas-powered generators out there designed specifically for indoor use in the case of power failure.

Have a Plan to Get to the Airport

If the situation calls for evacuation, the first hurdle is getting to the airport. If you live in a metropolitan area like NYC or Los Angeles, trains and busses will likely not be running or running behind schedule. So public transportation is probably out of the question.

Private Transportation

That means you will have to brave the traffic at least somewhat. We recommend trying to find some kind of private airport transportation for your ride. The benefit of these services is that you can book a ride at a moment’s notice and you don’t have to worry about parking and navigating the congested traffic yourself. The upshot of the city traffic is that most people will not be going to the airport, so once you make it out of the initial roadblock the airport traffic should be relatively sparse.

Ideally, you work with a transport company you trust. Most private car companies give priority services to high net-worth individuals, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to charter a ride on relatively short notice. Many companies offer their services on a retainer basis. You pay a regular premium and can basically get rides whenever you need them.

Private Helicopter Services

If private car transport is a no-go, then your next best bet is probably chartering a private helicopter. You can charter a private helicopter to fly you directly to your landing zone, skipping the hassle of getting to the airport by ground. Most airports around larger cities have a helipad for receiving private charters.

According to Valrin, the average cost for a private helicopter charter is about $200-$500 for 20-45 minute trips. Higher-end services could run you about $2,000 per flight. Of course, these figures will fluctuate based on time of day and other circumstances. In the event of a disaster, you’ll probably have to pay more than the average.

Private Aviation

Once you figure out your airport transportation plans, the next thing is yo make sure your plane is ready to go when you need it. Commercial airlines are normally hit just as hard by disasters so buying a commercial flight ticket on a same-day basis will likely be difficult.

In that case, private air charters are your best friend. Chartered flights are not part of regular airline routing so you can determine departure and arrival times. Private charter planes can operate under fewer restrictions than commercial airlines so it is easier to set up departure and landing times. They also usually operate out of private airfields different than commercial airfields so there is no worry about traffic or congestion.

There are a couple of ways to go about chartering private air travel. The simplest option is directly renting a plane through a jet broker like Tradewind or Sentient. Some air charter options let you buy fractional ownership for a jet or a jet card which lets you use a set amount of hours on different planes.

Regardless of which option you choose two things are important. Smaller charters are easier to schedule and you should always make sure there are two pilots for safety reasons. Two pilots is the standard on commercial flights and some charter flights have different regulations.

Private Jets – Airport

We would recommend trying to charter a plane out of a private airfield but this may not always be possible. One of the benefits of private charter planes is that they can land at both private and commercial airfields. The main problem is that commercial airfields usually get hit with lockdown during disaster times. During events like pandemics, for example, commercial air traffic might be completely grounded with no incoming or outgoing flights.

That is why it is almost always preferable to charter out of a private airport. That way you won’t have to deal with the congestion at commercial ports and can get around traffic being grounded at large airfields.

Other Considerations


If you have children your first priority should be getting them to safety. Children are much more vulnerable than adults during disasters so your plans should be oriented around their comfort and stability. Make sure all of your flying plans have accommodations for enough people. If it is in the interest of safety, you may have to send your children ahead on their own. In other words, you have to be prepared to put your children’s well-being above your own.


If it’s not safe for you, it’s definitely not safe for your pets. Since you don’t know how long you might be gone, you can’t just leave them. Fortunately, most private charter lines let you make accommodations for pets. Commercial airlines do as well, but usually have much harsher size restrictions. Animals more than 15 pounds or so are usually relegated to the cargo hold area, which is not a good environment for your pet.

If you can’t take your pet with you then make other preparations. Several organizations offer boarding services for pets in times of emergency and local animal shelters provide foster care for pets during disasters. It might pain you to do it but giving them up to a shelter with the resources to take care of them may be in their best interest. It’s a much more humane solution than leaving them behind.


Make sure your home is prepared to weather the disaster as well. Before you leave, you should make sure that all the windows and doors are shuttered and reinforced if need be. Unplug all electronic devices and remove any flammable substances. Make sure to disconnect your water, power, and gas. You won’t be able to take much with you, so grab only those things that are necessary or of irreplaceable sentimental value.

Several homeowner’s insurance policies have clauses stating that they will pay for additional living expenses in the case that your home is rendered uninhabitable because of a disaster. In general, you can expect a payout equal to about 20% of the insured value of your house.


Disasters can tie up the national banking system making your funds inaccessible. If you are evacuating, you will need cash, personal records, and any other immediately important financial information. Consider making a disaster-proof box in your home and creating copies of important documents. Keep in mind that ATMs may be down so make securing a source of cash your first priority when news of impending disaster hits.

Have a Plan After You Land

It is not enough just to escape the city; you need to have a plan on what to do next. Depending on the scale of the disaster, you might be able to return or you may not be able to go home. If the disaster is short term, then the most important thing is finding immediate shelter to wait it out. Once you get the clear from the authorities, you can make your way back to your home through normal channels.

Some disasters may be more permanent. In that case, you’ll have to start thinking long-term about where to put down roots next. Regardless of where you choose to relocate you’ll have to figure out things like living space, medical care, and where to send your children to school. These are all things that can be researched well ahead of any disaster. In fact, we would recommend taking some time to chart out possible options on where to start a new life.


The best strategy for managing disaster is being prepared. Ideally, you should have all your evacuation plans already laid out and ready to go with just a phone call. Disaster can strike at any moment so you don’t want to be caught by a lack of foresight. IN the case of disaster, your best bet to escape the city is air travel. As long as you make the right plans ahead of time, you should experience a smooth evacuation.

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