From Helicopters to Private Jets

Throughout her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has traveled in the height of luxury, whether by land, sea or air.

On June 30, the British royal household published its financial report for the year 2021-2022, giving a glimpse of how the monarch and the working members of her family get from A to B and how much it all costs.

In total, over the last financial year the royals spent £4.5 million ($5.4 million) on travel, including the official tours undertaken by Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate Middleton, as well as some minor working royals.

But how do the British royals travel and what methods do they have at their disposal? Newsweek has the answers.

Queen's Luxury Royal Travel
The queen on June 5, 2022, an RAF Voyager (inset top) on June 25, 2020, and a royal helicopter (inset bottom) on June 13, 2016. The queen and senior royals have a number of luxury travel options to choose from for official engagements.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Leon Neal/Getty Images/Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images


One of the main methods of domestic travel for the queen and the working members of her family is by helicopter.

Over her reign, the monarch has had a number of helicopters at her disposal with husband, Prince Philip, learning to fly the aircraft himself.

Queen Elizabeth II Royal Helicopter
Royal helicopters are painted a deep maroon color with royal cyphers on the sides, like this one on June 13, 2016. The queen and her family have the use of royal helicopters when undertaking official visits.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The queen currently relies on two main helicopters at her disposal, which are painted in a deep maroon color with royal cyphers on each side. The craft are a model S-76 from American manufacturer Sikorsky and have been in use by the royals since 2009.

The 2021-2022 royal household financial statement revealed that over 179 journeys were made via helicopters by the working royals throughout the year. As the expense for this is paid from the allocation of funds the queen receives from the government to pay for her official duties, she retains the right to approve each use of her aircraft by family members.

Though helicopters are capable of landing in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, the main central London landing hub for members of the royal family is at Kensington Palace in a large field at the northern end of the complex.

Prince William Kate Middleton Royal Helicopter
The queen’s aircraft are also used by senior royals on official visits. Prince William and Kate Middleton photographed on a visit to the Isles of Scilly, on September 2, 2016.
Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Private Jets

In the same way that the queen has the use of helicopters to help her travel quickly and safely within the U.K for short haul flights, she also has access to private jets both for her personal use, as well as for the use of working members of her family and government officials.

The royal household’s financial report for 2021-2022 revealed that nearly $1 million was spent on journeys taken in small and large fixed-wing aircraft for official royal journeys.

Most recently, the queen’s flight in a private jet made headlines when it was revealed by Buckingham Palace that the 96-year-old monarch experienced an aborted landing attempt after flying through a lightning storm ahead of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The queen no longer undertakes foreign travel and so reserves the use of private jets usually for her journeys to Scotland throughout the year.

Queen Elizabeth II Private Jet
The queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on a plane in 1969. Queen Elizabeth II has had the use of many private planes over the course of her reign and since stopping international travel she uses them on occasion to travel to her Scottish estate.
Bettmann via Getty Images

RAF Voyager

Though the queen no longer undertakes international visits, other members of her family are regularly asked by the Foreign Office to deputize for her in promoting British assets around the globe.

In the 2021-2022 financial year the royals undertook a number of foreign tours, including Prince William and Kate Middleton’s widely criticized visit to the Caribbean, which cost $274,000.

For their journey to the Caribbean, the Cambridges traveled aboard RAF Voyager, the U.K government’s VIP aircraft. While it maintains a military function as a mid-air refueling craft, it’s also used to transport high-ranking government officials and members of the royal family.

RAF Voyager is maintained and manned by the Royal Air Force, which oversees all of the royals’ air travel.

RAF Voyager
Members of the royal family have used the U.K government’s VIP plane named RAF Voyager for official royal tours. The plane on June 25, 2020.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Scheduled Flights

As well as traveling in VIP comfort, occasionally members of the royal family and their staff travel commercially for official engagements.

The Duchess of Cambridge has been spotted flying with British Airways passengers when traveling short haul to Europe for engagements including most recently for her solo visit to Denmark in February.

The financial reports published on June 30 showed that the royal household spent £200,000 on scheduled flights in 2021-2022.

The Royal Train

The royal train is composed of a series of private carriages reserved for the use of senior members of the royal family when traveling around Great Britain. There has been a royal train since the reign of Queen Victoria and the current one was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, though it has had its interiors updated in the years since.

The Royal Train
Queen Elizabeth II and her family have used the current royal train since the 1970s with Prince William and Kate Middleton using it to undertake a tour of Britain in 2020. The train on December 1, 2011.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The royal train has been used throughout the queen’s reign though sparingly owing to its high running costs and the logistical requirements of working in collaboration with Britain’s wider rail infrastructure.

In 2018, the queen invited Meghan Markle to accompany her on a rare engagement, which was seen as an introduction to royal duties for the newest member of the royal family. The pair traveled to a bridge opening in Cheshire aboard the royal train with Meghan remembering the experience fondly in her 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Meghan Markle Queen Elizabeth II Royal Train
Queen Elizabeth II invited Meghan Markle to accompany her on a rare one-on-one engagement aboard the royal train to Cheshire. June 14, 2018. The royal train has been used throughout the queen’s reign.
Peter Byrne/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Most recently, the royal train was used by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they undertook a tour of Britain in December 2020 to thank key workers during the pandemic.

Total expenditure on the royal train, including operating lease payments, for 2021-2022 was £1 million.

Fleet of Motor Vehicles

As well as helicopters, planes and trains, the royals also have a fleet of luxury motor cars that are used for official events such as the State Opening of Parliament, the Platinum Jubilee celebrations as well as regular engagements around the U.K.

In 2021-2022, the official expenditure on motor vehicle journeys undertaken by the queen and senior royals was £200,000.

Royal Motor Vehicles
The royal family have a number of cars for official and ceremonial use. Photographed on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, May 11, 2021.
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek’s The Royal Report podcast:
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