Traveling abroad, even flying privately, can be a turbulent experience. Long flight legs and limited services in some foreign markets can raise stress levels and result in last-minute itinerary changes; these in turn consume time and energy that would be better spent engaged in business or leisure. In an effort to smooth these bumps, private aviation’s leading providers—both foreign and domestic—have developed programs and services that eliminate many of the inefficiencies frequently encountered by international travelers. The following pages detail the options available from top domestic flight service providers for reaching international destinations and furnish profiles of leading foreign providers in four of the world’s rapidly emerging luxury markets. Whether in booking a round-trip international flight or arranging a multidestination itinerary within a foreign country, Robb Report’s International Travel Guide helps private fliers bring a measure of order to the airways.
With the world’s largest private jet fleet, NetJets (based in Columbus, Ohio) remains a global powerhouse for private air travel and an industry leader in terms of service and reliability. A subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company, NetJets provides its fractional aircraft owners and holders of the Marquis Jet Card with access to its North American fleet of more than 600 aircraft, which includes globe-hopping models from Dassault Falcon and Gulfstream. Next year, the company will begin taking delivery of ultralong-range Global-brand jets from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier.
North American customers also benefit from the company’s European program, NetJets Europe, whose fleet of more than 150 aircraft is available to transport them throughout Europe, just as the North American fleet serves visiting European clientele. In 2010, NetJets’ North American clients flew directly to more than 400 foreign airports in Japan, China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and numerous European countries, among other destinations.
When booking international flights with NetJets, clients receive travel-planning support from the company’s team of in-house experts from Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary and a 75-year-old authority on global travel and navigation. NetJets’ service staff is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to arrange flights, ground transportation, in-flight catering, and security. The firm’s 285,000 annual flights to 170 different countries make it one of the industry’s most seasoned providers and a sensible option for the traveler frequenting international skies.
Flexjet is the only flight service company to offer access to a complete set of private-air-travel solutions: fractional ownership, jet card membership, charter brokerage, and on-demand charter. To support these operations, the Richardson, Texas–based company maintains the industry’s freshest fleet, which consists entirely of Bombardier-manufactured models with an average age of approximately 4 years. The specific models in the fleet range from the light-category Learjet 40 XR to the large-cabin Challenger 605, which can fly as far as 4,600 miles nonstop with six passengers aboard but can accommodate as many as 12 passengers.
Clients can fly to virtually any global destination through Flexjet’s worldwide network of partner operators and service providers—though in these cases, ferry fees typically apply. Flexjet’s fractional owners most commonly request destinations in North America and Europe, but clients also have access to thousands of strategically located airports in China, India, Russia, South America, and the Middle East. For travel in Europe, Flexjet fractional owners and holders of the Flexjet 25 Jet Card (operated by U.S. air carrier Jet Solutions) have access to travel with Swiss charter provider VistaJet, which has been a Flexjet partner since early last year and maintains the largest fleet of Bombardier aircraft outside of the United States. VistaJet’s Learjet models and ultralong-range Global Express XRS planes enable Flexjet clients to fly to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific on an as-available basis at rates determined at the time of travel.
For trips outside of its own and VistaJet’s service areas, Flexjet partners with other providers in its global network to generate a range of quotes, enabling clients to select the options best suited to their needs. As on domestic flights, Flexjet owners and Flexjet25 Jet Card customers traveling internationally can rely on Flexjet’s customer account managers to attend to catering, ground transportation, and other details.
To satisfy a broader range of client needs during difficult economic times, CitationAir (formerly CitationShares) has expanded its portfolio of offerings well beyond the fractional-ownership platform. With its fleet of Cessna Citation jets and new, innovative programs that give jet card holders and fractional-share owners flexibility with respect to their level of financial and time commitment, CitationAir remains a top contender for domestic travel—particularly for trips shorter than 3,300 miles.
The Greenwich, Conn.–based company lacked a solution for its clients traveling outside of North America and the Caribbean until last fall, when an alliance with European charter broker Air Partner extended CitationAir’s reach. This relationship allows CitationAir clients to receive fixed, all-inclusive charter rates through Air Partner, which holds the industry’s only British royal warrant and operates a sizeable fleet of aircraft ranging from turboprops to VIP-configured jumbo jets.
In June, CitationAir not only expanded its international service to the Middle East but also incorporated the Air Partner alliance into its Jet Access program, which enables clients to avoid the risky capital investment and fluctuating asset valuations typically associated with fractional ownership. Clients who make a domestic flight commitment of 50 hours or more may purchase a minimum of 10 hours worth of travel within Europe and the Middle East. Jet Access members pay an access fee based on annual usage, plus the hourly rates and fuel costs.
This enhanced service—and the fact that the company recalled all of its pilots who were furloughed during the peak of the recession—makes CitationAir one of the industry’s best, and most resilient, service providers.