Private eye: the rise in popularity of jet travel

font-size:11.0pt">The journey is the reward. So say the Zen Buddhists, but this can be hard to believe when you’re crammed on a Ryanair plane between a screaming baby and a man with personal hygiene issues, and they announce they’ve run out of Pringles.

It is far easier to feel Zen on a private jet – something the UK luxury market is fast wising up to. In addition to clients using private jet charters as an alternative to commercial flights, more operators are offering entire private jet holidays, combining luxurious flying with one-of-a-kind experiences and superlative accommodation to create the ultimate package.

TCS World Travel has been crafting private jet expeditions for the US market since 1991, and started selling in the UK in 2016. It recently ran the numbers, comparing its flagship Around The World itinerary with a duplicate journey on commercial airlines.

The figures are compelling. Taking the TCS private jet meant passengers needed just 15 air journeys, rather than 26 commercial flights, with a total flying time of 73 hours versus 112. The time spent waiting in airports provided the starkest contrast – just nine hours with a private jet compared with a mind-numbing 84 with commercial airlines. Tempted yet?

It isn’t just saving time that motivates high-end clients to book private jet holidays, nor the – admittedly very luxurious – conditions on board, although free-flowing champagne and flatbeds are de rigueur.
Also key is the seamlessly smooth service where nothing is too much trouble: departure cards are pre-completed by staff, pre-stamped postcards are distributed in each destination, and purses of local currency are on hand, so guests need not waste a moment doing something so mundane as seeking out a bureau de change. All this comes at a price. The TCS 24-day Around the World itinerary starts from about £60,000 (tcsworldtravel.co.uk).

These high net worth travellers have already ticked off plenty of bucket list sights, so private jet itineraries often include off-the- beaten-track destinations and experience-led adventures. The TCS 2019 schedule includes India’s Thar desert, Réunion Island, Albania and Greenland. Its new ‘Uncharted Series’ delves deeper into specific countries or regions, with shorter itineraries for clients with less time. And for those who want to make private really private, the operator can create bespoke itineraries for couples, families or groups using a jet chartered solely for them.

National Geographic’s private jet expeditions recently launched to the UK market, offering commission to agents. Researchers, scientists and explorers who work with the National Geographic Society often accompany the trips; for example, the 19-day Great Empires trip visits places as diverse as Iran and Serbia, with an anthropologist, archaeologist and geographer on hand to give insights.

The trip, in a 75-seat private jet, starts from £58,000 (nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/trip-types/private-jet). Established luxury player Abercrombie & Kent operates three styles of private jet journeys. Wings Over The World offers small-group journeys for up to 16 guests
and focuses on getting to the heart of the destinations they visit. Private Jet trips travel on a chartered Boeing 757 with lie-flat seats, and embrace the jet-set lifestyle with luxurious hotels and exclusive events and experiences. Inspiring Expeditions are led by A&K founder Geoffrey Kent and visit some of the most remote places on the planet. The 25-day Around the World with Geoffrey Kent starts from $150,000, visiting the likes of Nicaragua, Easter Island, Oman and Georgia.

Hotel groups have got in on the act too, creating programmes so guests can link their properties in the most luxurious fashion. Four Seasons launched private jet journeys in 2012 and this year offers three 24-day itineraries, each visiting nine countries and open to 52 travellers, with prices from $135,000.

Aman reports that its private jet itineraries – it has two for 2019 – are booked by brand ‘junkies’, typically entrepreneurs from fields including finance, entertainment and law.

The opportunities to take your private jet business to new heights are endless. 

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