The state of air travel leaves some things to be desired—snaking TSA lines, tiny, unopenable bags of pretzels, smelly people next to you elbowing you out of an armrest—they all make the experience more unpleasant than it needs to be. And while $32,000 airline suites are fine and all, there is an even more luxurious way to get around the perils of uncomfortable redeyes and gate checked bags (if I wanted to check my bag I would have left it with the one human being who still works at the ticket counter, thank you very much).
That way, of course, is to fly on your own private plane. But what is the world’s most posh mode of air travel actually like? To find out, we hopped a quick flight with VistaJet, a private aviation company that can currently fly you to 182 countries on as little as 24 hours notice. Considering the small number of people able to experience this kind of transportation, it seemed like an opportunity to pull back the curtain that we couldn't pass up. Here are the best parts.
It may go without saying, but the hassles that exist while navigating crowded airports vanish completely. There are no lines, there are no people asking you to take off your shoes and put your laptop in a bin by itself. We had a quick stroll through the lobby area and out on to the tarmac where a driver took us straight to the door of our plane. We kept trying to show someone our driver’s license so they could check the hologram on it, but no one was interested.
Reading through descriptions of the luxe, pricey suites on commercial planes you could almost forget that while they leave you pampered, your personal space is still approximately the size of an extra large New York City closet. The interior of the Global 5000 we flew on could fit three beds and had enough room to accommodate a small yoga class. Beyond the vast space we had to stretch out, the experience is more that of a flying hotel than a means of conveyance. Complimentary cashmere socks, cotton linens (which, we sadly were not in the air long enough to experience) and a carefully curated in-flight library are simply an expected part of the experience.
We actually haven’t had a bad experience with a flight attendant before. But that’s a rather low bar. Both members of the flight crew on our plane (and all the cabin hostesses that VistaJet employs) attended the British Butler Institute. Which, for those who don’t know, may sound like a fiction created by Geoffrey on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but is actually one of the elite schools for those in the hospitality industry. It has trained its graduates in personalized, precision service for almost four decades with support from the British royal family.
We’ve been there—begging a flight attendant for extra peanuts on a long flight. And while first class has complimentary micro booze bottles and plastic trays of food that are at least hot, it isn’t anything to get excited about. Our meal was something else entirely. The day before the flight we were told to pick “whatever we wanted to eat.” Leaving from New York that’s a more daunting question to answer than you might think. We elected to order a couple burritos from Danny Bowien’s Mission Cantina. 20 minutes into the flight the crew produced a white tablecloth and informed us that they couldn’t believe that all we wanted was a couple burritos. They had taken the liberty of ordering most of the menu. And in one of the more remarkable feats we’ve experienced on an airplane, the team reconstituted all of it in a tiny galley and made the meal taste like it came straight out of the kitchen.
One of the problems with eating and drinking on an airplane is that 25,000 feet of altitude dulls your senses. VistaJet went out of their way to mitigate this problem with their drink menu. They tapped Simone Carporale, who led the Artesian in London to the title of best bar in the world four years in a row, to develop a list of eight relatively simple, yet unique cocktails with flavors and aromatics designed specifically to work high in the air, like oak smoke in a Manhattan (a particular standout) and Indian spices in a classic G&T.
Beyond the tangible perks (of which there are clearly many), one that could easily go unnoticed is the sense that each flight is personal. For us, that meant, for example, that when the crew saw we hadn’t finished eating, they asked if we’d like to just continue flying around in circles until we had. But for regular users of the service—VistaJet customers average 120 hours in the air every year—it means a full profile. Crews will know where their charges like to eat, how they like their drinks and probably their innermost secrets, although we didn’t get in that deep during our 90 minutes in the sky.
We don’t know if or when we’ll get to fly with VistaJet again—their customers pay on average between $1.4 million and $1.9 million a year—but while we’re waiting in line at the airport during the holidays, we’ll wear our cashmere socks and remember how it used to be.