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The advantages of private plane travel are clear—comfort, privacy, and schedule flexibility to start with. Then there’s the beauty of avoiding airport terminal crowds and dispensing with the need to arrive hours early to allow for unexpected traffic and long security or check-in lines. Private airlines use off-airport terminals with nearby parking lots, so arriving only minutes before take-off usually works quite well.
With demand for private airline travel and the corresponding increase in private aviation providers, companies are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Most have an assortment of pricing levels, whether they are membership, charter, or fractional ownership organizations. Personalized customer service and access to low priced repositioning flights are just the beginning of benefits offered.
Wheels Up, with memberships ranging from entry-level “Connect” to full “Core” and “Business,” offers members access to hard to get tickets for events such as the Masters Golf Tournament, Art Basel, Super Saturday Tailgate, and exclusive parties. Core members receive even more, with “Wheels Down,” from private meet-and-greets with Wheels Up Ambassadors that include entertainers, athletes, musicians, and business leaders to once-in-a-lifetime events. The Wheels Down Concierge provides access to luxurious hospitality and travel experiences. Their FoundersCard buys special amenities and upgrades at hotels, gyms, and resorts, as well as savings on personal and business products.
VistaJet, a membership-based company, recognized and responded to the increase in travelers who don’t want to leave their pets at home. VistaPet, in collaboration with veterinarians, groomers, and dieticians, upgrades pet travel with care kits, sleep mats, toys, treats, wipes, and balanced menus. They even offer “fear of flying” courses for dogs to desensitize them to what they might experience on a flight, such as fuel smells, engine sounds, vibrations, cabin air pressure, and turbulence.
Treats for people on VistaJet include Michelin-starred dining and wines specially selected to taste as delicious in the air as they do on the ground. There’s a Wine Club and access to coveted experiences like a three-day wine tour hosted by Marchesi Antinori, dinner at his Palazzo, private vineyard tour, and stay at an exclusive guest house on the family estate.
NetJets, with access to the largest luxury private jet fleet in the world at around 750 aircraft, offers a range of programs, from ownership to prepaid cards. NetJets Share, its signature fractional ownership program, provides for purchase in increments of 25 flight hours. NetJets Lease requires no capital outlay with fixed monthly payments. Individuals who fly fewer than 50 hours annually can purchase a Private Jet Card and pay in advance for increments of 25 hours to be used within 18 months.
NetJets pampers its members with signature inflight cuisine and personalized food and beverage choices. Travelers can use their own phones inflight with the NetJet Connects Text and Talk app. Pets are welcome, and NetJets assures travelers that all aircraft are spotlessly clean for boarding. Member amenities continue on the ground with special access to concerts, motor sports, food and wine events, arts, and travel. Golfers enjoy the NetJets Cup, a private two-day pro-am tournament, and invitations to exclusive venues at The Masters in Augusta.
AirSprint, a Canadian company offering fractional ownership of its private jets, provides members with a “Personal Flight Coordinator” to handle all their travel needs. In partnership with Quintessentially, a leading luxury lifestyle group, AirSprint owners have unique access to their services and experiences through a global network of more than 60 offices around the world.
Delta Private Jets offers a card that can be used for their private or commercial flights with a 20% discount from certain published fares, no initiation fee, and entry as low as $150,000. Diamond Medallion Status, and the perks that go with it such as upgrades, Sky Club membership, and choice benefits, comes with the Delta Private Jets Card along with opportunity to book “empty leg” repositioning flights. In some airport locations, cardholders will be transferred between private and commercial flights in a new Porsche. Access to luxury resorts and multi-million dollar vacation homes around the world through Exclusive Resorts, an elite private vacation club, is available to cardholders.
Flexjet’s three options include fractional ownership, lease, or Jet Card for fewer than 50 flight hours annually. Owners are eligible to participate in exclusive events such as the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance and Aspen Snow Polo, Sonoma County Wine Auction, and Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s Carnivale du Vin. Private terminals, upscale cabin interiors, dining, and wine make flying Flexjet luxurious and comfortable.
West coast private airline SurfAir offers Basic, Preferred, and Premium membership plans with unlimited flights to their destinations within California or Texas and 24-hour member services. Preferred members receive two complimentary hotel nights and preferred rates at Hotel Collection properties and one complimentary guest flight per quarter. Premium members receive the same hotel benefits plus one complimentary guest flight per month.
Now almost an expectation rather than a perk, up-to-date technology like Wi-Fi on all planes, real-time website schedules and information, and convenient apps for ios and Android are offered by nearly every private aviation company. On the Wheels Up app, members can book private flights, join money saving shared flights, access events, view and book “Hot Flights,” low cost repositioning flights, and reserve “Hot Nights,” luxury getaways. Delta Private Jets also offers a mobile app for booking, managing trips, and viewing low cost “empty legs.” VistaJet’s app offers similar information and services.
As if comfortable seats, privacy, and time-saving flexibility weren’t enough, these and other private aviation firms are seeking creative ways to convince consumers to forsake crowded airports and commercial travel. Although the perks are fun and attractive, they’re really just the icing on the cake.