Crystal Air Cruises Moves Closer To Takeoff; Agent Commissions Still Being Set

by Doug Gollan

Center section overhead lockers have been removed to create higher ceilings and a more spacious feel.

Crystal AirCruises will take flight next September with pre-inaugural flights leading to an October 2017 debut, Edie Rodriguez told a gathering of media in New York on Tuesday.

During the gathering, Crystal revealed interior renderings of the jet, which will hold up to 84 revenue passengers (by contrast, Delta has 281 seats in its version of the same aircraft type). The Crystal executives also confirmed itineraries will be 14, 21 or 28 days, and that the entire aircraft will be available for groups charters.

The ambitious launch sees Crystal building on its expansion into yacht and river cruises, as well as on demand private jet charter (it currently operates a single 12-seat Global Express), taking to the air in what is an increasingly competitive market alongside TCS, Four Seasons, Travcoa and Abercrombie & Kent.

However, Crystal will be able to offer passengers an extensive lounge and bar area, with white tablecloth dining (passengers can reserve times) tables that convert into game tops for chess and checkers, and extra wide aisles. Each seat will also have a 24-inch monitor for personal entertainment. Center section overhead lockers have been removed to create higher ceilings and a more spacious feel.

Rodriguez called the target market “the top two percent and aspirational wealthy,” but declined to provide pricing except to say Crystal’s offerings will be at a premium. She noted with Esprit, its yacht cruise entry that debuted last December, the average guest age is 35, and 50% were new customers.

To market the private air vacations, she says Crystal has a customer database of over 500,000 past guests, and she believes the trade will be an important producer.  For current sellers, she said that commission agreements will be different to comply with Transportation Department rules, and that the line is currently working out what the pay structure will be.

Itineraries are expected to be announced next month. Rodriguez said, while the guests will travel as a group, in destinations there will be opportunities to split up for different activities.

Seats in the 777 will be configured 2x2x2 side-by-side, all facing forward. As most of the passengers are expected to be couples or groups of family and friends, Cavaliere said it didn’t make sense to have the pods or enclosed suites that Emirates, Etihad, and British Airways feature in their first class cabins.

In destinations where a jumbo jet can’t land there will be transfers by smaller private jets or helicopters from a main airport to the destination. Crystal will be using FBOs, so customers will bypass the main terminals. Outside of big cities where the tours will use top end luxury hotels, accommodations might be in castles or manor houses not open to the general public as well as small hotels.

Air staff will be 12 butlers and a purser. There will also be a doctor, chef and tour director aboard. Rodriguez said, instead of hiring experienced flight attendants, it has taken butlers from its ships and trained them for in-flight service and safety certifications. The executives also claimed Crystal will feature the world’s largest in-air wine cellar.

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