Navigator takes a look at the best options to keep you up in the air for longer periods as you expand your horizons and venture farther afield.
It is often said that the world is getting smaller, however, as more and more cruising grounds open up it could be said that the quite opposite is, in fact, the case. Reaching these ever-expanding areas may be harder; even if you have your own plane or private jet share, the range or seating limits might be feasible for business travel but not for long distances to remote cruising grounds.
Obviously, there is the option to charter a private jet on a trip-by-trip basis, with different types available, but often there are ferry fees to get the plane back to base and then return to pick you up. In essence, this means you have to purchase two round trips. When it comes to intercontinental flights, the costs can mount up. Not only that but, as typical with one-off jet charters, it also means that if there is a mechanical issue or a pilot gets sick, you can be left to find a replacement on short notice – something that may not be easy depending on where you are flying to or from.
For these reasons, you might want to think about a fractional share, lease or even some of the recently introduced jet cards that offer fixed rates and guaranteed availability for transatlantic flights. In all cases, the providers guarantee replacement aircraft at your original pricing. Compared to on-demand charter, both fractional share options and jet cards enable you to book within days – and in some cases hours – of your planned departure time. Added to this, cancellation policies or flight changes are often much more liberal than when booking a one-off charter. That means if you decide to leave a few days early for some shopping in Paris, or you want to stay in Phuket for a week after you disembark your yacht, you have much more flexibility to change plans. So, which long-distance option and operator is right for you?
In terms of ultra-long-haul private jets, NetJets focuses on Bombardier’s popular Global Express series through shares and leases. It currently operates the Global 5000, Global 6000, and is selling the Global 7500, with the first one joining next year. It also offers the Gulfstream G450, good for flights up to around nine-and-a-half hours, in jet card format starting at 25 hours. However, since time is money, nonstop is better, and that’s where its Global Express options make the most sense, offering three types to suit your requirements. The Global 6000 has a range of about thirteen-and-a-half hours flying time, compared to just under 12 hours for the Global 5000, while the Global 7500 will extend nonstop flights to as long as 16 hours.
NetJets president Patrick Gallagher says its Global 5000 program is sold out, although the type remains in the fleet, and is an option to its customers via its interchange program. “We attribute that demand (for the 6000 compared to the 5000) to two things: first and most notably, the added range, and second, the forward crew rest area configuration.”
Speaking about the layout, Gallagher explains: “This affords passengers more privacy, which owners seem to appreciate whether traveling with a large team and conducting business or sleeping on an overnight flight.” He adds, “Comparing the 6000 to the 7500 is a similar story. We have continued to take deliveries of the 6000 as we approach our first 7500’s arrival early next year, at which point we will cut over to the flagship 7500. We already have commitments for the first two 7500s, and the drivers of those purchase decisions mirror that of the 6000 versus 5000—range and cabin space.”
Gallagher notes, “Several of our early adopters of the 7500 were excited by the prospect of connecting distant city pairs without a fuel stop, which was necessary on their Global 6000 shares despite its impressive range.” An added benefit is that the fourth cabin zone in the 7500 adds one-third more living space and allows NetJets to introduce a permanent bed in the private aft stateroom. Other perks of the 7500 will be increased comfort, reconfigured windows and additional cabin amenities, as well as improved speed. If you are based in Europe and flying to your yacht in North America or vice versa, another NetJets advantage is its extensive fleet starting with the Embraer Phenom 300 in the light jet category. This means if you flew on a Global from Zurich to Nassau, but then just three or four guests wanted to hop over to TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra for a round of golf, you can get guaranteed availability on the smaller jet. In the recently released 2019 Business Jet Traveler Readers’ Choice Survey, NetJets was voted best in all six categories rating fractional providers. It also won five of six categories in the Charter, Jet Cards and Membership Clubs categories. As Northrop & Johnson’s exclusive private aviation partner, NetJets extends exclusive benefits to Northrop & Johnson clients. For further information, ask your broker for details.
Another option for long-range private flights is VistaJet, a subsidiary of Dubai-based Vista Global Holding. It also owns XO, which it formed last year through a combination of XOJET and JetSmarter, both recent acquisitions.
VistaJet took delivery of its first Global 7500 in January and expects to have six in its fleet by the end of the year, with plans to take delivery of another half dozen in 2022. To access its newest addition, you need to join its Program, which requires at least 50 flight hours per year and a three-year commitment. It also offers the Global 6000 and Global 5000 via the on-demand charter program or through its jet card.
Among the perks of VistaJet is live inflight programming for your children – think Alice in Wonderland tea party inflight, in character, with Alice included. There is also a special menu for pets, and during the World Economic Forum in Davos, it launched a new optional carbon offset program.
Flexjet, the second-largest fractional fleet operator behind NetJets, offers the Gulfstream G650 as its fleet option for the long-haul. Instead of using the typical currency of hours, it sells a day-based program that enables you to keep the same aircraft with you even when you aren’t flying. Currently, its program is limited to customers in New York and London, although that may change in the future.
If you don’t want to make a multi-year commitment, there are now more short-term options that give you guaranteed availability and fixed one-way rates, meaning no ferry fees, at least when it comes to flying between Europe and North America. In addition to NetJets’ G450 25- and 50-hour jet cards, Air Partner, the JetSet Group and Private Jet Services (PJS) all launched their own transatlantic membership programs last year. Starting at just ten hours of purchased time, you can book your flight with as little as 72 hours’ notice. Unlike the offerings from NetJets, VistaJet and Flexjet, you get a large cabin jet instead of a specific type, however, the tradeoff is that they are a feasible solution for a one-off trip.
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