Feature

The new jet set

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16

A private jet provides the ultimate stardust for a really special trip. And it might not be the fantasy you thought, says Lisa Grainger

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16

A private jet provides the ultimate stardust for a really special trip. And it might not be the fantasy you thought, says Lisa Grainger

Until recently, private jets were the stuff of Beyoncé-style holiday fantasy. Yet the scene is changing. Today there are more than 12,000 private planes in America alone, ranging from four-seater propeller models to the latest Boeing 747-8, and the cost of chartering them has fallen dramatically.

While most of us are not about to start criss-crossing the globe in pampered splendour on a regular basis, private-jet travel is starting to enter the realms of possibility for a really special travel treat – the ultra-luxe icing on the cake for a big occasion holiday or one-off blow-out trip. So just how feasible is the fantasy?

One innovative jet charter company, Victor, which is working with Scott Dunn, will search not only all the planes available for charter on given dates, and costs, but spare seats on planes whose passengers are happy to share their cabin with others, or who want to offset the cost of an “empty leg” on a return flight.

While ticket prices are always going to be higher for private jets than commercial flights, there are some tantalising surprises out there. For a cost that’s sometimes not that much higher than flying First Class, it can be a way of sprinkling some memorable stardust over a landmark birthday jaunt or group ski trip.

The benefits of private travel, say its fans, cannot be compared with those of flying by commercial airliner, even in First Class. At the smaller airports, passengers can arrive just half an hour before, hand over luggage, passports and even pets to staff, and relax in a private waiting room before strolling over the Tarmac, without having to endure long security queues and crowds.

On-board food and drink can be personalised (although for an extra cost), and departure times are flexible. The plane can land at small airstrips – there are 3,000 scattered across Europe alone, only 10 per cent of which are used by scheduled airlines – cutting down stress and transfer times. And destinations can be altered a few hours before, should plans change.

But beware: the private jet experience is dangerously moreish, according to Clive Jackson, Victor’s founder. “When you’ve experienced real flexibility and exceptional customer service” he says, “it's hard to go back.”

*All prices are correct at time of going to print, based on a 4-day trip in December. Private jet facilities and rates will vary, depending on how each owner has customised their plane.
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