Not Even a Private Shower?! Would You Pay $106K for this flight?
There’s a scene in Tropic Thunder when Tom Cruise’s character, studio executive Les Grossman, is trying to bribe a Hollywood agent with the promise of a Gulfstream private jet. “I’m talking… G5,” says Grossman (in a performance that really should have won Cruise an Oscar). “That’s how you can roll! No more frequent flyer b**** miles for my boy!”
I think about that scene, and Tom Cruise, every time I get on a flight. Commercial air travel often leaves me dreaming about better ways to fly and how great it’d be to no longer have to deal with frequent flyer miles (I censor the phrase in my fantasy) and other pedestrian indignities of air travel. A private jet, of course, is the dream; Gulfstream’s $64.5 million jet would do nicely, thank you very much. There’s also Etihad Airways’ three-room residence — complete with private bathroom and bedroom — for $43,000 a flight; sure, I’d give it a whirl, too. Plus, Emirates also unveiled plans for its own private suite for well-heeled passenger; yes, more, please!
Related: WATCH: A De-luxe Apartment in the Sky: Airlines Compete to Offer the Sickest Luxury Suites
I try not to be one of those people who bashes commercial air travel just for the sake of doing so. Still, knowing that such luxurious flying options are out there being enjoyed by the 1 percent, I can’t shake the feeling that as far as flying goes, my miles-saving, economy-seat-sitting self is doing it wrong.
This year, Four Seasons tried to elbow its way onto our fantasy flight lists with its new Four Season private jet — a converted, tricked-out Boeing 757 that whisks guests on month-long, around-the-world journeys from Four Seasons resort to Four Seasons resort. It’s a fantasy vacation but also an expensive one: prices start at $106,000 per-passenger.
The Four Seasons Private Jet: is this my next fantasy flight? (Photo: Four Seasons)
Four Seasons already has announced four 2016 journeys (in January, April, September, and November) which will hit locations as diverse as Bora Bora, Sydney, Bali, India, Istanbul, Beijing, Dubai, the Seychelles, and the Serengeti.
Related: The Insider: The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti
I recently toured the Four Seasons private jet during its recent stopover in Seattle, just before its latest ’round the world jaunt, to see if it’s worthy of replacing my Gulfstream fantasy. The on-board staff certainly had their opinions.
“You’re not on a Four Seasons flight,” on-board concierge Javier Loureiro told me. “You’re on a ‘Four Seasons Private Jet Experience.’ You can expect to be pampered. You can expect to travel in luxury. You can expect to have an individualized trip that is tailored exactly to your needs.” (So sorry — forgive me for confusing a mere flight with an “experience!”)
No Knee Defenders here! Because it carries about a quarter of the number of passengers usually seated on a 757, the Four Seasons Private Jet offers crazy legroom. (Photo: Four Seasons)
Javier — who, when he’s not flying around the world, is the chief concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. — showed me around the plane to illustrate what he meant. Unlike typical commercial Boeing 757s, which cram about 180 passengers on board, the Four Seasons private jet seats 52 people who spend the month traveling around the world together.
Wait, what? Granted, your jet-setting fantasies probably don’t involve flying with a few-dozen strangers (unless they’re the gorgeous models you see lounging around private jets in your average hip-hop music video), but Javier assured me everyone has gotten along on his flights.
Having fewer seats allows a crazy amount of legroom — 78 inches of personal space, roughly double what you’d get on a commercial flight. The seats are made of Italian leather and are fully reclinable.
Now, THIS is the way to fly! (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
Each one has its own cashmere Four Seasons blanket and comes equipped with your own personal ottoman, Bose headphones, and iPad on which to view in-flight entertainment. Passengers also get their very own Bulgari toiletries kits. Alas, there’s no shower or private bedroom on this plane. (You think you’d get a flying shower for 100 grand.)
Still, the Four Seasons staff likes to brag about how much they spoil their passengers. “We have an amazing crew on board and they’re going to pamper you beyond your expectations,” said Javier. The plane is stocked with bottles of Dom Pérignon champagne (“We use it to wash the windshield,” joked one of the flight attendants). The plane also has an on-board private chef.
We’re not animals; we gotta have our high-end toiletries! (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
And then there’s the on-board concierge, whose job is to cater to passengers’ every need both while they’re in the air and when they’re taking excursions at the Four Seasons resorts where the month-long tour stops (usually for about two to three nights per hotel).
Javier told me of the time when, during a stop in Indonesia, some passengers wanted to get a taste of durian — the Asian fruit whose smell is so strong it’s banned from many hotels and restaurants for fear of offending visitors. So Javier arranged an impromptu journey to an out-of-the-way location where his guests could enjoy the forbidden fruit undisturbed. Because if you’re ponying up six figures for a trip, you should be able to nosh on anything you please.
On-board concierge Javier Loureiro did a good job trying to sell me on the plane. (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
“We have 100 people working behind the scenes to make this happen,” Javier said about the “Four Seasons Private Jet Experience.” “You couldn’t possibly replicate all we have planned unless you hired a staff of a thousand people.”
All that’s well and good, but there’s still the pesky fact that you’re sharing the plane, the bathrooms, and your baller private jet dreams with 51 other people. After all, who fantasizes about a public jet, no matter how fancy?
One of the bathrooms. Unfortunately, they let the other 51 passengers use it, too. (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
“If you want to make it an individual experience, you don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to,” Javier joked. He noted that while the 52 passengers do fly together, when they’re on the ground at Four Seasons resorts they’re each off doing their own local excursions arranged by himself and the Four Seasons team and included in the price — excursions you can take with your travel mates or by yourself.
Dom P. is my co-pilot. (Photo: Sid Lipsey)
“If you so choose, we can completely tailor this trip to your needs,” said Javier, giving me the pretend hard sell on my pretend flirtation with buying a $100,000-plus Four Seasons plane trip. “We will do a completely private everything for you.”
So what’s the better bargain: private jets, the suites offered by high-end Mideast-based airlines or the Four Seasons? A logical case can be made that, considering that it takes you around the world for a fraction of a Gulfstream’s annual operating cost, or the cost of flying around the world aboard Emirates and Etihad’s suites (if those airlines offered such itineraries, which they do not), the Four Seasons jet is the most cost-effective “price-per-mile” alternative.
Then again, if I’m using terms like “cost-effective” while fantasizing, then maybe I’m doing that wrong, too.