Tom Cruise, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and the Beckhams only fly by private jet. John Travolta famously earned his pilot’s licence so he could not only charter his own plane, but fly it directly from his home’s runway too. And private travel’s aspirational status is nowhere more apparent than on Instagram—where a number of influencers were recently outed for staging photos in studio sets that look like private jets.
But those factors that make private travel the height of luxury—no waiting at security; fewer delays; going where you want, when you want, with only those you want on board—now also seem like travel necessities. So, it comes as no surprise that the private aviation industry is booming, with The New York Times reporting that charter companies saw inquiries during the summer rise by as much as 75 percent over the previous year, with bookings increasing by 25 percent.
Ian Moore, chief commercial officer at VistaJet, confirms this. “The private aviation industry has seen an uptick in business and VistaJet has seen a significant increase in inquires. Currently only around 10 percent of people who can afford to fly private do, but 71 percent of VistaJet’s new incoming requests are from passengers who haven’t regularly used business aviation solutions before. We’re also seeing an increase in memberships from around the world, with the number of new members joining VistaJet growing by 320 percent in July.”
Richard Palese, managing partner at evoJets, reports similar growth. “Our new client bookings have increased fivefold year over year, signifying the expansion of the private jet demographic. Domestic travel, especially between remote locations and regional airports, has increased significantly.”
So, what’s driving this demand? According to a recent McKinsey & Company report it comes down to safety and hygiene—travelers have become aware that commercial flights expose them to a far greater number of “touchpoints” along their journeys. “The number of touchpoints significantly decreases when flying private: 20 interactions as opposed to 700 when flying commercial,” says Moore.
“The view on private travel has also shifted by many who previously viewed the expense as a splurge,” adds Palese. “Private flights are now being utilized as a necessary tool, rather than a luxury.”
As customer demand has grown and evolved, so too have the business models of the companies flying them. Magellan has long provided on-demand charter flights, with its Jet Card allowing customers to purchase 25-hour blocks of time aboard a selection of 10 of its most popular aircraft.
Now, it’s catering to new private flyers with the launch of a Jet Membership program, which provides many of the benefits of a Jet Card, without the same upfront capital commitment. “This came from speaking with many folks who didn’t know how much they would use private travel, but wanted the peace of mind of having access to a plan should they need it,” says Anthony Tivnan, Magellan’s president.
Earlier this year, VistaJet launched its Dynamic Jet Lease—a short-term lease over one, two, or three months, offering a dedicated aircraft and crew positioned at the nearest possible airport to the traveler. “It’s a unique monthly lease, providing the highest flexibility whenever needed, and especially when quick decisions are required,” says Moore. “The Dynamic Jet Lease increases safety, releases customers’ core business resources, and ensures peace of mind during a constantly changing global landscape.”
Private flights are now being seen as a necessary tool, rather than a luxury—Richard Palese
It’s not just business travel that’s evolving; highly secluded vacations are now on offer too, as private aviation companies join forces with luxury resorts to offer guests direct fly-in options. “Private flight packages allow our resort partners to create almost 100 percent private experiences from end to end,” explains EvoJets’ Palese. “Guests can navigate the airport, board the plane, and arrive at the property without coming within six feet of anyone.”
EvoJets recently launched a Private Club Level Experience at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. It includes round-trip flights to Miami on a 12-passenger heavy jet, complete with optional cabin attendant on board, and private access to the resort’s Club Lounge, private concierge, private pool, and beach area on the ground. Similarly, if you fly with the company into Round Hill Hotel and Villas, in Jamaica’s Montego Bay, you’ll arrive on a six-seater jet and stay in a private villa or a Ralph Lauren-designed oceanfront room.
Of course, as with VistaJet’s Dynamic Jet Lease, the ultimate luxury in the world of private aviation is being able to fly from an airport that’s as close as possible to your home. As John Travolta put it: “It’s a dream to have planes in the front yard—so that all you have to do is step out the door, get on, and whisk off.”
Private travel allows you to navigate the airport, board the plane, and arrive at your destination without coming within six feet of anyone—Richard Palese
With this in mind, EvoJets reports that flights for second-home utilization have increased in all major locations including Aspen, Vail, south Florida, and Lake Tahoe. “Domestic activity has of course increased tremendously compared with international travel, which historically was heavy in the summer,” adds Magellan’s Tivnan. “We’ve seen a significant increase in chartered flights to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, and South Dakota.”
On the Market
Sky Pine Estate in Worley, Idaho
A prime example of a property with excellent airport access is the Sky Pine Estate, on the market with Strand Hill Properties. Perched on the idyllic shores of Northern Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene, it comes complete with two hangars—one covering 12,500 square feet (1,115 sq m), the other 6,650 square feet (618 sq m)—at nearby Coeur d’Alene Airport. The estate also has a private helipad within its grounds, as well as a 16,620 square feet (1,544 sq m) timber-frame home with four en suite bedrooms, all with lake views, a private master wing, home office, and yoga/exercise studio.
Landings Way in Alpine, Wyoming
But for those who prefer to avoid airports completely, only a home with fly-in facilities will do. As its name suggests, this home in Landings Way is an exquisite lakefront residence, which not only has a guest house but a large hangar for the plane that you, or your guests, fly in on. The property, available through Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, L.L.C., can also be purchased with the adjacent Landings Aviation fixed-base operator (which provides aviation services to the Jackson and Jackson Hole areas, as well as to the 114 aircraft registered to Alpine Airpark residents) with the option to expand into the vacant lot in-between.
Banner image: Courtesy of Magellan and Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation