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Betting Big On Long-Haul And Large Cabin Private Jet Travel

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Even as the Covid Omicron variant causes trepidation across the greater travel industry, the largest private jet companies are moving forward with big bets on the market for bigger and longer-range private jets.

Yesterday in Montreal, NetJets, the world’s largest operator, took delivery of its first of 20 Global 7500s from Bombardier. The airplane can fly its fractional share owners nonstop from New York to Beijing or San Francisco to Sydney. It already has 43 Global 5000s, 5500s and 6000s.

The retail price for a Global 7500 is around $75 million. That means buying 100 hours of annual access, or an eighth of a share, would entail spending approximately $9.3 million before monthly management and hourly access costs.

While fractional owners get back a percentage of their buy-in cost when they sell their shares back at the end of their contracts – typically five years – it’s still pricey.

However, demand is strong. VistaJet, a unit of Dubai-based Vista Global, recently said its Global 7500 fleet is on track to clock around 1,400 flight hours per jet. That’s about 40% higher than pre-Covid numbers for similar aircraft types.

Although VistaJet customizes its membership agreements, clients must buy at least 100 hours per year and make three-year commitments for its newest addition. While it doesn’t publish pricing, hourly charges work out to around $20,000, so for a 15-hour one-way flight across the Pacific, the cost is about $300,000. In April, VistaJet said it could add a dozen Global 7500s in service by the end of 2022.

Other players are stocking up on long-range, large-cabin jets, too. Directional Aviation’s Flexjet and The Qatar Airways Group’s Qatar Executive are accelerating deliveries of Gulfstream’s G650ER. Both are launch customers of its next-generation G700 flagship.

Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 10X and Airbus with its ACJ TwoTwenty are bets big jet flyers will want even roomier aircraft with wider footprints. The TwoTwenty is a private version of the A220 that typically seats around 90 passengers in an airline configuration. It offers 786 square feet of floor space and six different cabin zones

At least some of the Airbus private jets are expected to be on the charter market. Comlux Group, which specializes in VIP Airliner charters with wide body aircraft like the Crystal Skye Boeing 777-200, said it would be operating a pair of TwoTwenty jets for FIVE, a Dubai-based hospitality and real estate company.

FIVE Chairman Kabir Mulchandani said he plans to use the new jets to “seamlessly curate an exclusive and luxurious lifestyle experience both on the ground – and in the air.”

With international borders closed and top executives staying home, large cabin private jets had seen the slowest recovery. However, in October, Argus TraqPak reported large cabin private jet flights were up 60% for the month over 2020, compared to 36% for the overall market. Fractional operators like NetJets and Flexjet saw a 63% jump, while charter operators like Qatar Executive and VistaJet had a 66% gain.

Aircraft sales broker Jetcraft predicts transactions of pre-owned large-cabin private jets will increase from 310 this year to 457 by 2025. At the same time, you don’t have to buy a whole jet, part of a jet, or even commit to 50 hours per year.

With backing from KKR, Jet Edge is expanding its fleet of large-cabin Gulfstream jets. It is currently promoting U.S. coast-to-coast flights for $36,500, plus the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax. Its programs start with a refundable $100,000 deposit, although if you put down at least $500,000, it is offering 7.5% in credits through the end of the year.

Private Jet Services Group, a New Hampshire-based charter broker that specializes in sports team and live entertainment tour flights, recently launched a new ultra-long-haul category in its fixed-rate jet card program. It requires funding an account at $150,000.

Rates in the new tier are valid for flights within the Continental U.S. and to Mexico or the Caribbean, so it’s a reflection of the larger family and friends’ groups that want to travel together – privately. While large-cabin jets typically offer 10 to 12 seats, the ultra-long-haul jets seat between 14 and 18 passengers.

The desire to fly on larger planes and longer flights isn’t just in the U.S. Directional’s U.K.-based charter broker PrivateFly announced earlier this week fixed-hourly rates on large and ultra-long-haul cabin jets for long distance flights.

Customers in its Aviator program, which has a 10,000 euros annual fee, are offered fixed hourly rates of 11,700 euros for large-cabin jets and 13,500 euros ultra-long-range aircraft. The pricing is for flights from the U.K. to the U.S., Caribbean or the Middle East. Travelers can also fly from Moscow to the Middle East at the same prices.

“It provides the reassurance of being able to avoid the uncertainty of open market quotes, which can vary widely in the current market conditions,” said Marine Eugène, European Managing Director of PrivateFly and Flexjet.