James Durston from SCMP – Reports
If you were to imagine the perfect air travel experience, might it look something like this?
I arrive at the airport 10 minutes before take-off. Hand my passport to a well-groomed man who sorts out the details while I sit down with a drink. Someone else takes care of my bags. I’ve got an open bottle of water and a laptop in my hand-carry, I inform him. “No problem sir,” he says with a smile. My passport is returned almost immediately, and I am invited to board. All within those 10 minutes since I arrived.
The flight is straight out of a brochure. Plush leather seats that swivel and offer music and lighting controls for the cabin. Michelin star-worthy meals served on a white tablecloth, with silver cutlery and crystal wine glasses. Fasten seat belt signs that can be ignored. Zero commands to switch off my phone. A TV room with three-seater couch, a double bedroom, and a smooth, quiet ride that allows for easy cloud-gazing as well as idle chatter.
This kind of premium travel has been available for years, but it is catching on, and while still unaffordable to most, it’s no longer the domain only of the billionaire jet owner. Membership services make this kind of A-list air travel an increasingly accessible option for the world’s business traveller, according to Ian Moore, chief commercial officer for Vista Global. Its VistaJet membership service offers access to a fleet of aircraft around the world, ready to fly within 24 hours notice from and to pretty much anywhere. Members buy, for example, 100 hours of flying for a year, and can then call on VistaJet whenever they need.
“Our competition is aircraft ownership,” says Moore. “Ten years ago we had just 20 aircraft, now we have 350, and our market share is less than 5 per cent compared to private ownership – so the potential is huge.”
The pandemic has helped. As commercial air travel options became limited, the private option surged. Businesspeople who need to be places, fast, could pay US$75 million to buy a Bombardier Global 7500 plane (and around US$4 million per year for maintenance), or just sign up with a membership business and save time, money and hassle. VistaJet, that just bought 18 of those same 7500s, charges US$25,000 per flying hour for that option. And there are other operators too.
While VistaJet owns most of its aircraft, other businesses have emerged that don’t own any. Jettly was founded in 2016 and offers something akin to Uber for planes: a website and app that allows you to charter someone else’s plane as easily as booking a hotel, with more than 23,000 registered aircraft available in 190 countries and territories.
“Going back to commercial travel is extremely difficult once you’ve flown and experienced private flights,” says Justin Crabbe, Jettly’s CEO. “During the pandemic, we experienced a 67 per cent growth in new first-time private fliers. The benefits over outright ownership are quite clear – no ownership costs, no capital expenditures, no storage, no maintenance, no depreciation, no interest on loans, no minimum hours to maintain aircraft manufacturer warranties and no management of crews.”
For the full article by James, please click here.