With Abercrombie & Kent, TCS Expeditions, Four Seasons, and Crystal Cruises leading the way, the idea of “private jet” vacations has been a hot growth area. However, these offerings are selling seats on a 757 (or in the case of Crystal, soon to be 777 and 787) configured with first-class-style flat-bed seats.
Presidential is doing it a bit differently, selling private groups the entire jet, typically a Gulfstream 450 or 550 or a Bombardier Global Express, where customers can take as many or few friends as they want.
These planes cost about $40 million to purchase new. The typical maximum capacity is 18, but if you have a client who wants a bigger group, the company has access to a wide range of aircraft, as it also manages a fleet of jets for its owners. In the case of Presidential, there is only one customer who is buying the entire plane. Pricing is based on the itinerary; how many people are going, which impacts hotel and other ground experiences; and of course the jet.
“We wanted to see what else was available using smaller planes (than 757s), and much to our surprise there was very little,” said Jordi Cata, private jet vacations director at Presidential. “We saw the opportunity to create a new market segment with people who wanted to travel in a close group on true private jets.”
On its website, Presidential offers 18 itineraries that can be bought off the shelf, and pays agents 15. However, Cata says, “What you see on the website are our sample itineraries. These itineraries are only meant to showcase our capabilities, and show the caliber of product we have to offer. From this we create something 100% customized. The itineraries inspire people to give us a call, and that gives them the roadmap to create their dream trip.”
Among the benefits of the “private” private jet trips Presidential offers is that departure is from the airport of your customer’s choice, so there are no connecting flights, and you can pick up other guests en route. You can also change your routing during the trip. For customized trips Presidential negotiates a commissionable rate or net rate individually with agents. “Our goal is to generously reward the travel agent,” Cata says, noting, “it’s unique. There is nothing out there that compares apples to apples.”
The group is a division of Presidential Aviation, a 19-year-old company that manages jets for the owners of its jets, so it has a large fleet that it operates into which to tap. It has a significant maintenance operation as well.
Presidential then works with leading receptive operators to create the ground experiences. “We always use the highest quality ground partners, the absolute best hotel groups. Everything is the absolute best of the best,” Cata says. Among the operators he sources are Imperial Tours in China, Journey Mexico in Mexico, and Gulf Ventures for the UAE Gulf Ventures.
Some examples of unique experiences being offered include dining with hosts of royal lineage in India, sharing luxury tents with the Berber in Morocco, kite-making in China with a descendant of the Last Emperor’s kite maker, lunch in the middle of a Napa Valley vineyard prepared by the winegrower's family, a lobster grilling party atop Cecil Peak in New Zealand, and a behind-closed-doors tour of Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. Examples of hotels include the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, The Peninsula in Hong Kong, and Oberoi’s Udaivillas in Udaipur, India.
Cata, who in his career has visited over 80 countries, says, he is “happy with how we are doing so far” since the launch in early 2015. He believes Presidential’s experience with worldwide private jet operations and management, combined with the expertise of leading DMOs, provides a unique way for luxury travelers to vacation. The South Pacific, Latin America, and Indian Ocean have been the most popular areas to date.