The advantages of private jets

Aeroplane delays are a fact of life for frequent travellers. Even those who fly in business or first class are at the mercy of slow airport security. But there is a way to avoid busy airports, travel in style and cut your journey time. Private jets have been steadily growing in popularity over the
past decade, particularly among second-home owners trying to make the most of their weekends.

‘Our customers save up to 50% on their travel time, compared to commercial flying,’ explains Philip Baer, Vice President for the UK team of NetJets Europe. ‘It’s hassle-free and is particularly welcome when you’re travelling with a family. You arrive 15 minutes before your flight takes off, you can eat when you want, take luggage on board the cabin, there’s privacy to work, the children can move around and a limo meets you from the runway. It makes flying pleasurable once more.’

NetJets Europe is the biggest private-jet operator in Europe and includes a host of celebrities and captains of industry as customers. Their fractional business model allows you to buy a ‘share’ in an aircraft (and gain access to their entire fleet) or simply buy blocks of flying hours to use when you want. Customers are guaranteed a plane within ten hours’ notice.

Even better, the price is not as eye-watering as you might expect. ‘Our minimum block to buy is 25 hours, costing €141,000 (£123,000),’ says Mr Baer. ‘For that, you get a seven-seat light jet, such as a Hawker 400XP, which has a 2-2½ hour range. That’s enough to get you from Farnborough, London City or Northolt to the Alps, Spain and some of Italy.’ A round trip to the Alps can cost €15,000 (£13,000), but when you divide that by seven passengers-and keep in mind the reduced journey time and the fact that a private jet can take you to a small airport much closer to your resort-it starts to feel like a smart deal.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Thomas Flohr, owner and CEO of VistaJet, NetJets’ European rival. VistaJet also offers customers blocks of hours to buy, although here they start at a minimum of 100 hours per year. Alternatively, customers can just charter a VistaJet for occasional travel. ‘A third of our business comprises multiple-home owners travelling to their properties,’ says Mr Flohr. ‘In today’s demanding world, we’re all searching for a way to be more effective in business and fulfil family obligations. Private jets offer the solution.’

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Besides the logistical advantages of flying privately, Mr Flohr also points out the aesthetic appeal of their jets. ‘Our customers have beautiful homes, so they deserve to travel in aircraft that are similarly well appointed. With its cashmere blankets, lovely silver cutlery and generally chic environment, our fleet is simply a continuation of their lifestyle.’

For similar reasons, NetJets Europe offers some of the world’s finest in-flight meals, with customers able to pre-order food from restaurants such as Hakkasan and Ubon in London, Le Meurice in Paris and Four Seasons hotels Europe-wide.

The company currently has more than 50 top restaurants signed up to its catering programme-a far cry from the commercial airlines’ offering of Styrofoam cups and ready meals. Private jets may still be shaking off their decadent luxury tag, but next time you’re shuffling through airport security, clutching your shoes and holding your belt-less trousers up while hearing the tannoy announce a delay to your flight, keep in mind that there is an alternative.

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This article first appeared in Country Life International, out May 11 with Country Life magazine.