According to those in-the-know we are in the midst of an ‘experience economy’ – we are choosing to spend less on material ‘things’ and more on ‘experiences’, and thus the face of luxury travel is changing. Where once flying First Class was considered the epitome of comfort, travel companies are going above and beyond to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences that were previously only dreamed of. Welcome to the world of private jet travel.
“The demand for what we might call ‘experiential travel’ has risen considerably in the past five years as travellers look for money-can’t-buy-experiences that make incredible memories,” explains Simon Casson, president of hotel operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, who are one of the hotel brands revolutionising the way their guests travel with Four Seasons Private Jet Experiences. The sleek Four Seasons branded mid-sized jet takes 52 guests on bespoke journeys around the globe in the comfort of hand-crafted leather flatbed seats, cashmere blankets and accompanied by an elite Four Seasons trained team of chef, physician and in-flight crew. “The jet is a testament to our commitment to innovation and the creative pursuit of extraordinary travel, re-imagining the conventional limits of travel to deliver the experiences our guests want and value in ways that have never before been possible,” says Casson.
Of course, the exclusivity of these itineraries is reflected in the price tag, which ranges between AED495,000 (USD135,000) to AED507,000 (USD138,000), based on double occupancy. For this, you can expect an all-inclusive holiday of the super-luxe kind, covering your jet travel across multiple continents, all food and beverages, and it goes without saying, the renowned comfort of Four Seasons properties – where a Four Seasons hotel might not yet have been founded, guests can rest assured a residence has been hand-picked by Four Seasons quality control to ensure the very same standards are met. For 2018, there are three Four Seasons Private Jet Experiences scheduled. In March, the Timeless Encounters itinerary (March 1 – 24) will take guests from Hawaii to London via the exotic islands of Bora Bora; the cosmopolitan cityscape of Sydney; whitewater rafting in Bali; exploring ancient temples in Chiang Mai; a day trip to the Taj Mahal followed by dinner in Dubai, then on to London with a stopover in Prague. The International Intrigue trip will begin in Seattle in September and take jet travellers across Asia and Africa, through Europe and will end in London. Highlights include a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, private tours of Kyoto’s temples and VIP access to the Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg. Both trips have proven so popular that Four Seasons have curated a third itinerary, World of Wonders, set to leave Seattle on October 19 headed to Kyoto, Bali, Seychelles, Marrakech, Bogota and Rwanda in East Africa to trek the Volcanoes National Park and see gorillas in their natural habitat, as well as, perhaps most spectacularly, the Galapagos Islands where marine enthusiasts will have the unique experience of swimming with sea lions and manta rays in one of the world’s most biologically important wildlife reserves. Three weeks that are bound to make an impact, whether nature lover or city slicker.
“Private jet travel gives guests the flexibility to change plans at a moment’s notice, allowing them to make the most of their journey by modifying daily plans depending on what experiences appeal at any given time or place,” Casson says on the advantages of this form of travel, aside from the obvious comforts. “They know they will receive the peace of mind that every detail of their journey will be attended to and the opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals who share their passion for travel and adventure.”
Asia-based luxury hotel group Aman are also taking their guest experiences to new heights, and lengths, with an extended Private Jet Journey itinerary for 2018 in collaboration with travel design company Remote Lands. The inaugural journey will depart on April 15 and will host just 16 guests on an Airbus ACJ319 originally designed for 126 passengers, transporting them in the supreme comfort of a space fitted out with bedrooms, showers and lounges on board. The trip will showcase nine countries in 22 days, delivering the passengers to Aman properties in Tokyo, China, Vietnam, Thailand and beyond. The company’s chief operating officer, Roland Fasel, says it was a natural progression to offer an exclusive way to travel seamlessly between the Aman properties around the world in a bid to “redefine the bounds of travel with a series of extraordinary voyages.” Not only do guests get to visit a hit-list of destinations from Vietnam to Montenegro, Bhutan to Jaipur, but they get to do it in the Aman manner in which they are accustomed with the ability to change the itinerary at a moment’s notice, thanks to the nature of private jet travel. Not to mention the tailor-made aspects such as intimate dinners in usually restricted venues, private views and other unique elements not accessible to everyday visitors.
“One of the advantages of private jet travel is that it offers excursions that merge the simplicity of group tours with exclusive experiences, impeccable stays and quick commutes via private jet. From the moment guests step on board, every aspect of their adventure is taken care of. In addition, our journeys, compared to other similar offerings, are extremely intimate, with only 12 or 16 spaces available,” says Fasel. This development in experiential travel can be put down to not only a desire to experience what few others can, but the ability to maximise time, which has undoubtedly become more and more precious – time is money, after all. Four Seasons’ Simon Casson agrees: “Overall, the process is about enabling our guests to make the most of their time – one of their most precious commodities. Whether it means securing access to remote airports, or tinkering with the route to give the optimum amount of time in each location, our itineraries are designed to take guests closer to their destinations than conventional aircrafts ever could.”
“It [time] is the biggest luxury today,” concurs Roar Africa’s Deborah Calmeyer who creates custom-made itineraries for those who want to explore Africa in depth and in privacy. “People do not want any of their time wasted. Instead they want it maximised – everything has to be exceptional or there is a feeling of losing out,” she continues. This November, Calmeyer has curated a private jet safari that will see guests spend a few days each in Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Gonarezhou at Singita Pamushana Lodge (widely known to be one of the best game lodges in Africa), Tanzania’s Grumeti Reserve and Sabi Sands in South Africa, for unrivalled game viewing and tracking of big cats before taking a ve-and-a-half-hour ight to the frozen plains of Antarctica to stay in the futuristic Whichaway Camp located at the base of the Wolf’s Fang Mountains. “People today crave experiences, they want to escape their day-to-day, they want live out a fantasy. It’s far more appealing than branded fashion, for example,” says Calmeyer of her high net worth customer base for whom she tailor-makes itineraries for at the starting price of AED1,800 (USD1,500) per day.
It also has a lot to do with social media opening up the world. Amazing holidays have become the norm and are displayed across platforms like Facebook and Instagram driving the desire for people to have even more unique experiences than their friends, and more exclusive access to further prove their worth. “People have always wanted to have a fantastic holiday and to visit an amazing location that they can tell their friends about afterwards,” says Simon Casson, “platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook have revolutionised that trend. Travel photos now give instant social currency, so it’s not surprising that people want to go off-the-beaten-track and try new adventures.” Private jet travel is most certainly doing that.