Inside Teterboro Airport, NYC's private jet airport, where celebrities slip in unnoticed and Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges in July

teterboro airportKatie Warren/Business Insider

  • Teterboro Airport is New York City's private jet airport, where celebrities slip into the city unnoticed and where Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges on July 6.
  • It's only about 12 miles from Manhattan, making it the closest private jet airport to the city.
  • Teterboro has five fixed-base operators (FBOs) responsible for aircraft services including passenger handling, aircraft fueling, parking, maintenance, charters, rentals, and more.
  • The airport's FBOs, like the award-winning Meridian Teterboro, offer some swanky amenities including lounges, a gym, a private movie theater, and hotel and limousine concierge services.
  • Despite those offerings, a visit to the airport showed me that the true luxury of flying through Teterboro lies not in its amenities, but in the time it allows travelers to save.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Just 12 miles from New York City, Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is the city's primary private jet airport.

Teterboro is a general aviation airport, which means its main purpose is to remove smaller, slower aircraft - i.e. private jets - from the regional air traffic and reduce congestion at the commercial airports such as Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Usher, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been spotted at Teterboro, and late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who recently died in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, was arrested at the New Jersey airport in July.

I recently spent a few hours at the airport and got a tour of some of its facilities - here's what it was like.

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Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is the main private jet airport serving New York City.

Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is the main private jet airport serving New York City.

The 827-acre airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, is a general aviation airport, which means its main purpose is to remove smaller, slower aircraft — i.e. private jets — from the regional air traffic and reduce congestion at the commercial airports such as Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Teterboro is only about 12 miles from Manhattan, making it the closest private jet airport to the city.

Teterboro is only about 12 miles from Manhattan, making it the closest private jet airport to the city.

Depending on traffic, it's only about a 30-minute drive from Teterboro to Midtown Manhattan.

Opened in 1919, Teterboro Airport is the oldest operating airport in the New York and New Jersey metro area, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Opened in 1919, Teterboro Airport is the oldest operating airport in the New York and New Jersey metro area, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"During the 1920s, Teterboro Airport was at the center of America's golden age of aviation," The New York Times reported in 1976.

Famous aviators including Charles A. Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart spent time at the airport.

Today, many celebrities pass through the airport as an alternative to the area's major commercial airports: Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Today, many celebrities pass through the airport as an alternative to the area's major commercial airports: Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport.

Stars including Miley Cyrus, Usher, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have been spotted there.

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who recently died in jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, was arrested at Teterboro Airport in July.

Teterboro isn't served by commercial airlines like Delta or United. Instead, when someone flies in or out of Teterboro, they go through what's called a fixed base operator, or an FBO.

Teterboro isn't served by commercial airlines like Delta or United. Instead, when someone flies in or out of Teterboro, they go through what's called a fixed base operator, or an FBO.

FBOs are responsible for aircraft services including passenger handling, aircraft fueling, parking, maintenance, charters, and de-icing. They also handle towing and baggage handling, car rentals, hotel reservations, and some include pilot lounges.

The five FBOs operating at Teterboro are Atlantic Aviation, Jet Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Signature Flight Support - South, and Meridian Teterboro.

On a recent summer day, I took the PATH train and a Lyft from Business Insider's Manhattan office to Teterboro Airport.

On a recent summer day, I took the PATH train and a Lyft from Business Insider's Manhattan office to Teterboro Airport.

I was on my way to get a tour of the airport and its facilities with the marketing director of Meridian Teterboro, which was recently voted the top FBO in the northeast and one of the top 5% in the US by an Aviation International News survey.

But one does not simply drive into Teterboro Airport.

But one does not simply drive into Teterboro Airport.

My Lyft was stopped at the gate, and the security guard asked to see both my ID and the driver's ID.

I was on a visitors list, so we were let in without any problem.

Meridian Teterboro's 30,000-square-foot executive terminal includes a lobby, lounges and rest areas, work stations, a gym with showers and lockers, a pool table, and a private movie theater.

Meridian Teterboro's 30,000-square-foot executive terminal includes a lobby, lounges and rest areas, work stations, a gym with showers and lockers, a pool table, and a private movie theater.

Meridian Teterboro, which started as a maintenance business, is "like a fancy gas station for private planes," Kirk Stephen, Meridian's director of marketing, told me jokingly.

Travelers passing through Meridian Teterboro are personally greeted by the customer service team at the reception desk.

Travelers passing through Meridian Teterboro are personally greeted by the customer service team at the reception desk.

Betsy Wines, Meridian's vice president of customer service and human resources who's been at Meridian for 34 years, told me that many of Meridian's customers are repeat customers that the team knows by name.

Meridian's customer service team handles any special customer requests as well as hotel reservation, rental cars, and limousines.

The lobby is airy and bright, with high ceilings and walls of glass.

The lobby is airy and bright, with high ceilings and walls of glass.

It's filled with comfortable seating and several large plants. Stephen likens Meridian's facilities to a "five-star hotel."

It's filled with comfortable seating and several large plants. Stephen likens Meridian's facilities to a "five-star hotel."

Having visited the 5-star hotel Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, not long before I went to Teterboro, I'm not quite sure that's a claim I agree with. Teterboro's airport was sparkling clean and modern, but the rooms and lobby in Amangani were full of texture, sumptuous wood accents, and furniture that was designed to look rustic but was clearly extremely expensive.

I get where Stephen was going with the comparison, though: Teterboro's interior is far nicer than any airport I've been to — and miles ahead of nearby LaGuardia, one of the most hated airports in the US.

Most of Meridian's clientele go straight to and from their planes rather than lingering in the terminal, so facilities like the work stations and rest areas are more often used by pilots passing through the airport, according to Stephen.

Most of Meridian's clientele go straight to and from their planes rather than lingering in the terminal, so facilities like the work stations and rest areas are more often used by pilots passing through the airport, according to Stephen.

"Usually passengers just want to just want to walk through and get out and get to where they're going, but the pilots may have to be here for a while, so we wanted to provide those amenities for them," Stephen said.

In a lounge with a TV and pool table, I saw one pilot taking a nap on a couch and another relaxing in an armchair.

In a lounge with a TV and pool table, I saw one pilot taking a nap on a couch and another relaxing in an armchair.

Pilots can get some shut-eye in a windowless rest area where small pillows and blankets are provided.

Pilots can get some shut-eye in a windowless rest area where small pillows and blankets are provided.

The terminal also includes a gym outfitted with cardio and weight lifting equipment.

The terminal also includes a gym outfitted with cardio and weight lifting equipment.

There's even a private 10-seat movie theater.

There's even a private 10-seat movie theater.

Most people who pass through Meridian Teterboro are business travelers, both companies and individuals, according to Stephen.

Most people who pass through Meridian Teterboro are business travelers, both companies and individuals, according to Stephen.

"Most people think that private jets are for, you know, celebrities and athletes and [that] it's a luxury segment," Stephen said. "There are people that use private jets for those reasons, but believe it or not, the vast majority of private jets are used for business."

While it could take days for a business traveler to fly commercial between certain destinations, "if you have a private jet, you can go from A to B to C to D all in a very short period of time," he said. "So it's really saving time that's saving money for businesses."

On a slow day, about 40 planes pass through Meridian's terminal. On a busier day, it could be up to 80.

On a slow day, about 40 planes pass through Meridian's terminal. On a busier day, it could be up to 80.

In 2018, Teterboro Airport saw more than 174,000 total take-offs and landings, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meridian is coming up on one of its busiest times of the year, according to Stephen, including the day after Labor Day, New York Fashion Week, and the United Nations General Assembly, all in September.

Meridian operates its own charter fleet of 20 planes, which range from mid-size aircraft to ultra-long-range planes that can travel almost halfway around the world without having to stop for fuel.

Meridian operates its own charter fleet of 20 planes, which range from mid-size aircraft to ultra-long-range planes that can travel almost halfway around the world without having to stop for fuel.

While costs can vary, chartering a small plane with eight seats starts at about $3,500 per hour, while a larger plane that can hold about 16 people can go up to $11,000 per hour, according to Chris Battaglia, Meridian Teterboro's director of charter sales.

Meridian has three hangars: two are 40,000 square feet (one of which is new), and one is 20,000 square feet.

In the hangars, Meridian's maintenance team services, repairs, and cleans planes.

In the hangars, Meridian's maintenance team services, repairs, and cleans planes.

I got to take a peek into one of Meridian's planes, a Gulfstream G200.

The G200 has a roughly 25-foot by seven-foot cabin and can carry eight to 10 passengers.

The G200 has a roughly 25-foot by seven-foot cabin and can carry eight to 10 passengers.

It has a range of about 3,800 miles and a maximum speed of 541 miles per hour.

The interior is luxuriously appointed with beige leather seats and wood veneer.

The interior is luxuriously appointed with beige leather seats and wood veneer.

The G200 includes seven leather armchairs and a divan that seats three people.

A small additional seat can be used in the bathroom.

A small additional seat can be used in the bathroom.

Water bottles and a basket of snacks are placed on board before each charter.

Water bottles and a basket of snacks are placed on board before each charter.

Meridian's customer service team does its best to accommodate any request of its clientele, no matter how outlandish.

Meridian's customer service team does its best to accommodate any request of its clientele, no matter how outlandish.

"You know, you'll have a customer call that wants to maybe a particular bottle of wine or Champagne," Wines said, "or there's someone's birthday on an aircraft and the crew will call and say, 'Can you get me a birthday cake and some balloons or some flowers?'"

Those are normal requests, she said. But they've also had a customer call mid-flight and say something like, "Look, my boss forgot his suitcase and he's supposed to play tennis with somebody."

Wines' team will ask for the correct sizes, go to the store, and buy a full tennis outfit to have waiting at the terminal.

Unlike at a typical commercial airport, Teterboro customers don't have to bundle their liquids in one tiny plastic bag or take off their shoes and pass through a full-body scanner.

Unlike at a typical commercial airport, Teterboro customers don't have to bundle their liquids in one tiny plastic bag or take off their shoes and pass through a full-body scanner.

In fact, they don't even necessarily have to show up for their flight on-time — it's not going to leave without them.

"But you know, if time is money, they'll be there when they're supposed to be there," Stephen said. "Otherwise, it could cost them more money, or if they're expecting to land in a certain place and they have to be there by a certain time ... they can put themselves in jeopardy by not getting to where they need to be. But for the most part, they can probably be here a half hour beforehand and it would be OK."

In addition to their charter and aircraft handling services, Meridian manages aircraft for private jet owners, which includes flight operations, maintenance, and charter sales for those owners who charter their planes to mitigate costs.

I wasn't allowed to take photos of travelers at Teterboro, but I did see a small group of people walking out onto the tarmac to board a jet. They were dressed in business casual attire.

I wasn't allowed to take photos of travelers at Teterboro, but I did see a small group of people walking out onto the tarmac to board a jet. They were dressed in business casual attire.

While the amenities at Meridian Teterboro were perfectly comfortable, the airport as a whole was much less glamorous than I'd expected.

After my tour of Teterboro, it was clear that's because the true luxury of flying through the private jet airport is saving time.

Teterboro's proximity to Manhattan — one of the major business centers of the world — as well as the hours saved by not having to show up to an airport two or three hours early or adhere to commercial flight schedules, embody the airport's true appeal to business travelers.

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