You don’t have to be a rock star to join the private-jet set. Mark Hodson shows you how.
What’s your ultimate travel fantasy? Mine is simple: always to fly by private jet. Simple, but stupidly unrealistic, because, like most of you reading this article, I’m not a billionaire, a head of state or a Premiership footballer.
…However, recent moves by tour operators have at least made it more affordable than in the past …
Three years ago, arranging such a jaunt would have meant long negotiations with an aviation broker. Today, you simply call one of half a dozen tour operators that offer holidays and short breaks priced up with private flights. And thousands of us are doing just that: the market leader, Jeffersons, says that its bookings are doubling year on year.
Interestingly, Jeffersons says that most of its clients… are ordinary salaried folk who have saved up a few quid to celebrate a wedding anniversary or a 40th birthday. Until two years ago, these people might have splurged on a Concorde flight; now… they are going private.
Private-jet travel falls into three distinct categories. First, there is the deliciously gratuitous, just-for-the-hell-of-it treat — such as lunch in Paris.
Then there is the executive short break. Somebody… might use a private jet to squeeze three days of skiing into a weekend. This person is not swayed by beluga caviar and a walnut trim. What they want is convenience, flexibility and speed.
The third option is the packaged trip of a lifetime. This is not strictly private travel, because you share an aircraft with other passengers, but it does open up a world of mouth-watering experiences.
Still stuck for ideas? Here’s a selection of the best. All prices are per person, based on flying from an airport around London — usually Biggin Hill, Farnborough, Luton, Oxford or Stansted. If none of those is convenient, you can choose from another 65 airports nationwide, but prices will vary
CHAMPAGNE FOR LUNCH
It’s the height of decadence — jetting off to France for a slap- up lunch. Your destination is Les Crayères, a two-Michelin-starred chateau in champagne country, where you will feast on a six-course meal — with bubbly — before a leisurely tour of the vineyards. Trips cost £1,759, based on two sharing, or £857 for six.
A HOP TO THE SLOPES
For the time-poor, cash-rich skier, private jet travel really comes into its own when you fly directly into a resort. One of the best for this is St Moritz, in Switzerland,. If you take your own skis and don’t mind pulling on your thermals as you taxi towards the terminal, you can be on the lifts 15 minutes after landing. If two of you do this trip, with two nights half-board at the Kulm Hotel, in St Moritz, you will pay £3,986, but get together six friends and the price is £1,966. Lift passes are not included, but can be arranged in advance. Details from Jeffersons, as above.
GOLF WITH A PRO
For about £4,000, golfers can fulfil their ultimate fantasy — playing a round with one of Britain’s leading pros. Your day out begins with a flight on a four-seater Citation CJ1 to one of Europe’s top courses, where you meet up with your celebrity partner. After an hour’s personal tuition, you play 18 holes before a champagne tea or dinner. The trip is due to appear in Jeffersons’ new brochure in October, but can be arranged any time on request. The price, based on three travelling, depends on where you play and with whom; for £3,000 or £4,000 you could get to Turnberry and challenge the likes of Ronan Rafferty, Sam Torrance or Ian Woosnam. Details as above.