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Saturday, 10 October 2020

The rich ditch first class for private jets

 

For years, the wealthy have been comfortable flying First or Business Class but now they are seeking the seclusion of private jets.

They want to steer clear of passengers, airport terminals and baggage check-ins, touch-points that could be contaminated by coronavirus.

In an interview with BDLife, Stuart McNeill, the CEO Knightsbridge Circle, a members' only concierge company in the UK, says: “Passengers who in the past would have flown Business or First Class commercial are now using private jets.”

Joshua Herbert, the founder, and CEO of Magellan Jets in the US said before Covid-19, the company had lots of clients hiring jets to Africa, Paris, and London.

When coronavirus hit, demand dropped but it has picked up again.

“We have had an increase in clients from July, August, and September. New customer acquisition is high for business trips,” says Herbert.

The new clients hiring the private jets currently are well-travelled but were not chartering planes before. Most of them are chartering planes for leisure travel, about 60 percent of them, while 40 percent are travelling for business.

New members in private jet clubs have also increased. And most of them are 50 years and above.

For Knightsbridge Circle, the members pay an annual fee of Sh4 million to Sh17.5 million, depending on if one wants to sign up as an elite flyer or not. Magellan Jets charges an annual membership fee of Sh850,000 ($8,500) on the lower side.

Elite-tier clients have personal managers. “When a member arrives at their destination, their personal manager is there to greet them and assist them in the hotel or house. It is the most exclusive service in the world,” Stuart says.

For non-members, a person flying from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) to Paris-Le Bourget airport in France, for instance, will pay Sh19.7 million (€154,120).

“The amount of money spent depends on the outer and size of the aircraft. We have members who spend $1m+ per year on private jet charters,” says Stuart.

In Africa, most private jet bookings come from Morocco and South Africa. There has also been an increased demand for the wealthy to fly to Kenya, because of its good weather.

“Thanks to Instagram, we receive many requests for flights to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi. We have previously organised leisure trips to the Maasai Mara and Laikipia. Our clients love the Segera Retreat on the Laikipia Plateau. They enjoy the amazing game drives, night drives and game walks, camel treks and sundowners,” Stuart says, adding that the guests tend to stay in Kenya for seven to ten days.

Concierge services that cater to a high-spending clientele are also enjoying the booming business.

So what would the rich confined in their homes want to be delivered at their doorstep? “We have had to evolve quickly to their new demands. Instead of organising hotel and restaurant reservations, we are arranging virtual wine tastings, Covid-19 tests, delivering fitness equipment to members’ homes, and enrolling them into online educational courses,” says Stuart.

On a private jet, one gets to enjoy a massage on board, local dishes, and sleep on a bed.

“Discretion is our strength. There is an extra room that can be for the nanny or personal assistant,” explains Herbert, adding that on a recent trip to South Africa during Covid-19, some of their clients were served South African cuisines to prepare them for their trip.

There also those who charter luxurious air ambulances.

“We have organised for ambulance services for our safari clients in Africa,” Stuart says.

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