The Walt Disney Company has entered the private jet travel market, putting an exclamation mark on a seemingly burning niche. The mouse announcement came a week after Abercrombie & Kent added five new private jet trips. TCS World Travel currently has more than two dozen scheduled Group Jet Expedition departures, many of which are waitlisted. Four Seasons Hotels, which typically offered one or two departures per year, has 11 Four Seasons Private Jet Experience departures scheduled by the end of 2023.
The Disney itinerary is limited to 75 passengers and spans 24 days to visit six countries with plenty of VIP access, like a private tour of the Lucasfilm campus and Skywalker Ranch. You’ll see 12 Disney theme parks, plus the Taj Mahal, the Giza pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower.
Although the announcement was made earlier this week, the departure date is not until July 2023. The price per person is $109,995, based on double occupancy. Solo travelers can pay an additional $10,995. VIP customers from previous Disney and Golden Oak adventures get the first dibs to purchase starting June 20, 2022. Sales will open to the general public on June 28.
“We’ve had clients who have gone on Four Seasons trips,” says Mary Jean Tully, CEO of Toronto-based Tully Luxury Travel. “The first question people ask is what kinds of people will be making the trip.” She says that with Disney, the biggest issue is the mix of children on board. “There are adults who are interested, but they don’t want to be stuck on a plane with a bunch of kids running around.”
Michale Holtz, CEO of SmartFlyer, a New York-based travel agency that is part of the Virtuoso network, says, “Private jet tours are very popular. Customers love them. We have customers who have their own private jet, who have done these tours and told us it was better than their own jet. On private jet tours, you have notable experts, you get VIP access, and every detail is taken care of along the way.
He says, “It’s kind of the community aspect of a luxury safari camp because you meet other interesting people,” adding, “The routes are tricky to ride on your own.
On the Four Seasons website, a pair of 24-day September and October departures starting in Miami and visiting the Easter Islands, Bora Bora, Great Barrier Reef, Koh Samui, Petra, Egyptian Pyramids and Athens before to end in Madrid are priced at $173,000 per person. They are listed as sold out.
If you want to go, the first chance is a 21-day trip departing in late November from New Orleans to Costa Rica, Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Antarctica and Bogota before ending in the Bahamas. There are still places at $190,000 per person in double, or $19,000 more if you plan to travel solo.
Looking ahead, Four Seasons Chairman Christian Clerc said, “We have expanded our travel program to accommodate seven trips in 2023 – the most we have ever offered in a year.”
A route goes from Kona to London with stops in Tahiti, Sydney, Bali, Chiang Mai, the Taj Mahal, Dubai and Prague. Travel will be on the hotel group’s new Airbus A321neo-LR with just 48 seats that convert to fully flat beds. On board is a dedicated concierge, an executive chef and even a doctor.
Not all new private jet tours hop between continents.
Remote Lands, which operates Aman Private Jet Expeditions, lists five routes between September and February. Adventures in America visits the luxury group’s hotels and resorts in New York, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Utah and Wyoming using a 14-seat Global Express at $112,888 for 14 days.
Abercrombie & Kent’s recently added private jet departures are regionally focused, with itineraries limited to between 12 and 18 guests over 11 to 13 days, starting at $34,495. Trips visit Alaska, Australia, East Africa, India or Italy.
Abercrombie & Kent Vice President Stefanie Schmudde says: “Wings Over the World travel resonates strongly with those who want to travel in the most luxurious and seamless way possible, with private terminals in most locations. with expedited registration and customs. We eliminate airport pain points by flying directly from each destination to the next on a schedule that makes sense for each specific route, not a commercial service, so customers can see much more in less time.
What are the opportunities for growth?
Greg Raiff, CEO of Private Jet Services Group, which specializes in bands, sports teams, live entertainment tours and corporate shuttle charters, says there are a limited number of planes with the systems avionics and navigation for intercontinental travel and remote airports. He says planes like the ones used are typically chartered for around $30,000 to $40,000 an hour.
He adds: “In the good old days, everyone used the same plane and just changed the stickers on the outside. You had older L-1011s that would be used as troop transports, and they would change the interior to 70 standard first class seats with a bar. What you see today is a much higher level of customization.
For suppliers, Raiff says the key to profitability is planning and routing. This means minimizing the duration of flight legs to reduce expenses such as fuel and packaging as much as possible in the shortest window so that aircraft are available for other customers and not just sitting on the ground between stops .
At the same time, Tully says routes can be a hindrance. “A lot of the places you visit are must-see destinations, and a lot of people want more than two days here and a day and a half here,” she says.
Still, SmartFlyer’s Holtz says demand is strong. Whereas previously multi-week trips limited the pool of prospects, he says, “It’s a new world. Working from home has become working from anywhere, so commuting time is no longer an obstacle.