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“Many people wouldn’t even consider private jets before, but more are realising it’s not prohibitively expensive, and that it can save them time”

an upfront financial commitment is proving very popular for many business people and individuals. As Synergy’s Glen Heavens points out: “Around 90 per cent of our charters are ad hoc.” So what can you expect to pay? Imagine you have a meeting in Zurich at 2pm on 7 December – a quick search on one provider’s website gives me a private flight to Zurich on 7 December 2010 for a total of £5,399 for four people. The same four people can fly direct with Blue Island for £1,232 – but that means arriving on the 6th and flying back on the 8th (so you can add in hotel stay for four people for two nights plus expenses, and there is only one flight each day). A search on Expedia gives me more flights to choose from but the cheapest is £1,258 per person and that requires an overnight stay. Admittedly it’s a bit of a ‘down and dirty’ example, but it makes the point. And the fun doesn’t end there – you can get ‘bucket’ prices on some private flights, by looking for ‘empty leg’ or ‘repositioning’ flights. Imagine Elton John is swanning around his hotel in Cannes and has to get back to London at some point in the future – now his plane is currently at Farnborough, so it has to be

Why I fly privately

CHARLES CLARKE is an independent non- executive director who enjoys the delights of private aviation more for personal than business flights. Here’s what he has to say about getting away from the typical airport experience. “I fly privately primarily for holidays. My favourite example is that we, as a family, enjoy skiing and we like going to Verbier. The traditional way of getting there was usually to fly to Gatwick and then on to Geneva and then endure a three-and-a-half-hour transfer by coach to Verbier. So you have to commit the whole of a day. You could abbreviate it a bit if you managed to get on one of the scheduled flights that goes from Jersey directly to Geneva, or one of the special charters in the skiing

involved lugging heavy luggage around, all of a sudden becomes something that you do by mid-morning.

season, but that’s not always possible or convenient owing to demand, flight times and frequencies. So we decided we would go privately. We fly from Jersey to a small airport called Sion. The flight takes 90 minutes and then it’s about a 45-minute taxi ride to the resort – so something that previously could take a whole day and

50 December 2010/January 2011

Typically there would be four of us, and the ability to arrive at the airport 15 minutes before we leave and have all our stuff with us and be at the chalet within three hours is great. I admit it’s not cheap, but you can build a case for it when there are two or more of you trying to get to a place that isn’t easily accessed by direct flights from scheduled carriers. Let me stress, though, it’s just one component of travel. I’d never dream of flying privately from Jersey to Gatwick, and I’ve just got back from Singapore and wouldn’t dream of using anything other than a scheduled carrier.”

flown down to Cannes in time for his journey. Of course, this means the plane is going to be empty for that trip, so some operators will offer bargain prices on it. A quick look at the Blink website and there is a flight from Geneva to Nice on 17 November at 15.30 (too late for you to book it now) for £150. Yes, you read that right – you could have a private jet for £150, providing you can fly at the set time.

Frequent flyers

So flying privately is no longer the sole preserve of multi-gazillionaires, you just have to work out which approach is best for you, and if it really is best for you. As Emily Williams says: “For flyers for whom time, privacy, comfort and convenience aren’t critical, private aviation services may not be justifiable. It’s important to evaluate your needs and choose the most appropriate option.”

Another decision is whether to do your business through an operator or a broker. “Some clients prefer to have a direct relationship with an operator,” says James Leach, Group Marketing Manager at Air Charter Service, a private aviation broker. “Whereas some choose to use a broker because of the choice they have

available. Of course, there are those that work through both.”

However you choose to fly privately, it makes sense to do your research first – not least because of the possibility that aviation companies could go bust, as has happened in the past. If you are going to part with a large amount of money, you have a right to demand assurances (as much as is possible) that a firm is financially stable. Alternatively, check how well an operator is backed – NetJets, for instance, has the might of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway behind it. All that said, it seems that the market is on the verge of taking off. “Many people wouldn’t even have considered private jets before – they’re seen as extravagant and people automatically think it’s going to be very expensive,” says Judith Moreton. “But more are beginning to realise that it is not prohibitively expensive, and that it can also save them a lot of time.” So next time you’re thinking of heading off to Majorca for the week and want to avoid the usual airport chaos, think private. n

NICK KIRBY is Editor-in-Chief of

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