Flying Private: Ask the Experts

Private-jet-company executives and aviation specialists explain everything from catering to über-custom interiors.

Why do most companies take a half hour to give a charter price quote? “There are 248 variables that go into calculating it in real time, from landing fees, which can vary by time of day, to parking fees, airport fees, and so forth,” says Jonny Nicol, CEO of Stratajet, which offers pricing instantly via a complex algorithm. During development, it took Stratajet 16 minutes to search among 500 aircraft and calculate a price quote; it now takes 12 seconds.

Will New York's Le CouCou cater my flight? Actually, no. (The restaurant doesn’t do takeout.) Opt instead for Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, Cipriani in New York, or Nobu worldwide, all of which have packaging designed for private jets. At Nobu, every dish is deconstructed and labeled for in-flight service. “Because we are often delivering sushi and sashimi, temperature control is critical,” says Anne Yamamoto, director of special events at Nobu New York. “We put each ingredient in a thermal bag and give the in-flight team a step-by-step guide to creating the dish.”

How should I choose a private-jet company? Based on its safety policy, which is provided on a company’s website. “There were only two third-party safety-auditing agencies when we started in 2008. Now there are four or five, which makes it easier for us and the consumer,” says Joshua Hebert, CEO of Magellan Jets.

Just how custom are custom interiors? The world is your oyster as long as you don’t care about your plane’s resale value or fractional appeal. Aircraft manufacturer Embraer recently created a prototype with floor-to-ceiling windows and floor seating available as a customization on its $55 million Lineage 100. “To customize the interior is one thing, but this is one of the first times the exterior was customized,” says Jay Beever, Embraer’s VP of design.

Rappers are obsessed with gulfstreams. Are they the coolest? It’s not about being cool but rather which plane best suits the needs of the trip. “You aren’t necessarily going to take a midsize Hawker 800 from New York to L.A., though you would from New York to Miami,” says Steven Rosenzweig, cofounder of V2 Jets.

What are the latest innovations worth knowing about? “The HondaJet,” says Magellan CEO Hebert. It launched in 2015 as the fastest in its lightweight class, reaching a maximum cruise speed of 486 miles per hour and an altitude of 43,000 feet. It’s also 17 percent more fuel efficient than the average light jet and incredibly quiet, thus reducing direct operating costs because more airfields are basing landing charges on noise. There’s also Zee.Aero, Google cofounder Larry Page’s start-up that’s working on a vertical-takeoff plane.

What is deicing and can it happen to me? During winter, there is the possibility that an aircraft will require deicing and anti-ice. “We’ve seen bills for up to $15,000,” says Andrew Wolff, senior vice president at V2 Jets.

I have a meeting in D.C. and want to land at Reagan National Airport. Can I? “We have security clearance at Reagan,” says James Henderson, CBO at XOJet. As does V2 Jets, which has a partnership with a private security company that provides onboard air marshals when flying into high-security airports.