TORONTO — In the not-so-distant-past, upscale jet flights were the elite perk of celebrities, sports teams and the ultra-rich, and the vast majority of travellers didn’t give them a second thought as a potential travel option.
Now, in the wake of COVID-19, some travellers are taking another look. While price points for upscale jet travel will always put this product at the very high end of the market, some agents will have clients that fit the profile.
As luxury operators always say, don’t sell based on your own wallet.
Ralph Hollister, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, says international business arrivals are expected to decrease by 40.7% year-on-year in 2020. That means private jet companies will need to pivot away from traditional corporate travel revenue streams and focus more on leisure travellers. “This dramatic reduction in business travel will likely take a prolonged amount of time to regain pre-pandemic levels,” he says. “In order to stay viable, private jet companies need to now strengthen their focus on the growing leisure market while corporate travel remains bleak.”
Hollister adds that the increase in demand spurred by leisure travellers for private jets “may permanently change the business models of many private jet companies.” Privacy, safety and flexibility need to be key marketing messages.
ACV JETZ EXPERIENCE
Air Canada Vacations launched its Jetz Experience earlier this month. Nonstop flights start in December on select departure dates from Toronto to Cancun and Barbados, from Montreal to Barbados, and from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta with connectors from 54 Canadian cities. Packages include luxury accommodation and transfers. Each of the airline’s four Airbus A319 Jetz aircraft are configured with 58 North American Business Class seats.
ACV’s Kristi Ellsmere-Ihasz says the Air Canada Vacations Groups department has access to book groups on the routes, for any agents with high-end group clients. “We definitely see this as an option for those customers looking for an ‘Ultimate Escape’,” says Ellsmere-Ihasz. “This product allows customers to travel a little different and will include great value added features.”
Agents can book the Jetz Experience by calling 1-877-752-7710.
The lead-in price for ACV’s Jetz Experience, for the Dec. 20 departure to Cancun from Toronto, with one week at Dreams Vista Cancun Resort and Spa with Deluxe Ocean View accommodation, is $2,999 per passenger, double occupancy, taxes included.
Jetz flights are also available as air-only through Air Canada, for travel during the Christmas period Dec. 12, 2020 – Jan. 6, 2021, with a second schedule for March Break flights currently under development. Nonstop flights are currently available between these city pairs: Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Barbados, Cancun, Kelowna and Vancouver; Montreal to Fort Lauderdale and Barbados; and Vancouver to Phoenix, Palm Springs and Puerto Vallarta.
Agents can make Jetz air-only bookings either via their GDS (Sabre, Amadeus, etc.) or via aircanada.com/agents (ADO), says Air Canada’s Sr. Manager, Media & Public Relations, Christa Poole.
She notes that Jetz flights will be available for Aeroplan redemption, meaning members can use their miles on the flights. Jetz fares are comparable to Business Class fares, she adds.
FLITESTAR’S NET FARES
Discover the World recently announced its partnership with Flitestar Private Jets for bespoke travel arrangements.
Flitestar works regularly with the travel trade around the world, says Joanne Lundy, Director, Canada at Discover the World.
“Most of our partners prefer net fares but our new jet sharing services will be commissionable when the program is launched in the new year,” Lundy told Travelweek. “As air charter is a high ticket item, in order to remain competitive there is a commission paid, but agents are welcome to use a net rate and set their own markups.”
We asked Lundy what the price points are like. “Flitestar’s system allows them to search and compare over 7,000 aircraft worldwide (including N. America) so pricing can fluctuate according to supply and demand, bearing in mind the aim is to supply the best aircraft at the best price, versus the cheapest aircraft at the cheapest price,” she said.
Currently Flitestar’s services are on demand and the company serves all four corners of the globe, “from a family going on vacation, to a small group travelling to Africa in a private jet, to a flight for corporate travel locally,” says Lundy.
Jet sharing flights are currently only operating between London and Barbados, but ad hoc charters are available at any time, to just about anywhere.
Reservation requests can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
AROUND THE WORLD WITH A&K
Pricing for private jet travel typically isn’t something clients will see splashed across the ads of their newspaper’s travel section. Like just about everything else in the high-end sphere, it’s more often a case of ‘prices available upon request’.
But ultimately there’s a price tag for everything and some suppliers, especially those who have been catering to high-end travellers for years, are very upfront with their pricing.
Abercrombie & Kent has included private jet travel in its collection for several years. Looking to maximize all the pent-up demand for travel in 2021 and beyond, last month the company launched its latest Private Jet journey, Around the World with Geoffrey Kent: An Inspiring Expedition by Private Jet, scheduled for Oct. 14 – Nov. 8, 2021 and limited to 48 travellers.
With loyal clientele and years of experience with these around the world private jet trips with A&K founder Geoffrey Kent, the 26-day journey will no doubt be a big seller, even at US$160,000 per person. A&K spokesperson Jean Fawcett says the company is seeing strong demand for itineraries that feature privately-chartered flights.
“This pause has changed how people are thinking about their next vacation,” says Fawcett. She says A&K is expanding its portfolio of Wings Over the World journeys that use private air to explore Spain and Morocco (13 days from $32,495 per person, limit 13); Argentina, Chile & Brazil (12 days from $34,995 per person, limit 11); East Africa; the Mediterranean; Northern Europe; India; and Southern Africa.
SELLING LUXURY TRAVEL
Virtuoso travel advisor Heather Collins is well-versed in selling luxury travel but even she’s not sure about finding the right clients for private jets. “I don’t believe that I have clients who would put out that kind of money,” says Collins. “We do small group tours so depending on costs, it might be an option for a group, but most of our trips are longer haul.”
That said, adds Collins, “I do have two couples who are booked on our small group tour to South Africa for October 2021. With their upgrade to Business Class the trip cost is around $48,000. But that’s not private jet kind of money.”
Joelle Goldman recently joined Direct Travel as VP, Host Services, in the company’s host agency division. Previously she spent seven years as Director, Member Relations U.S./Canada with Virtuoso. Needless to say, Goldman knows luxury travel.
Goldman says the industry will see huge pent-up demand once restrictions around the world are lifted. “Travellers have been honing their wanderlists and we are seeing big ticket vacations already being booked for 2021 and even into 2022,” she says.
She adds: “Many clients in the luxury travel market have not been impacted as much others and their travel advisors are more valuable than ever before. Clients gravitate towards advisors who have access to experiences and amenities clients cannot get elsewhere and over the past eight months, elevated supplier relationships have played a significant role.”
Like many industry insiders experienced with luxury travel, Goldman advises agents not to undersell. “Don’t use your own wallet to gauge the affordability of these trips,” she says. “It may be beyond your budget but that doesn’t mean it is beyond theirs.”