Monday, February 25, 2008

Flying Private

In an increasingly globalised world, the need for reliable transportation is becoming more and more crucial for business travelers. According to Forbes, it is said that there are over 166 million people who make use of the aviation industry annually, of which two-thirds travel for business purposes.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's research shows that only 80% of flights were on time in November 2007. This dismal performance by commercial airline transporters have increasingly encouraged the more affluent to invest in private air travel.

For those who fly privately, price is often no object. Take, for example, a hedge fund manager who recently hired the Long Island, N.Y.-based Talon Air to fly him and five guests to Las Vegas on a Gulfstream IV.

The party began their four-day trip with a catered meal from the exclusive Japanese restaurant Nobu. They relaxed in reclining leather seats and sped toward Sin City at 570 miles per hour. On the return flight, they again enjoyed a Nobu meal, this one prepared at the Las Vegas restaurant.

The total cost? $86,000, which included a $5,000 bill for catering.

Space, distance and safety are hallmarks of private planes, but today there are also added perks like gourmet catering, in-flight yoga and massages, as well as state-of-the-art entertainment.

Duncan Aviation, a US-based company, that specialises in retrofitting older jets, has installed in its jets each of these features and more, including liquid-crystal display screens up to 42 inches and custom dividers for those who desire privacy. Modifications aren't cheap, though. The divider can cost anywhere from $70,000 to $90,000, the espresso machine from $12,000 to $20,000, the TV system $20,000 and wireless Internet $500,000.

Despite the cringe-worthy price tags of these options, they pale in comparison to the original cost of the plane, which can easily start at $10 million.