x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

5-star service at new heights

The Life: Thinking of chartering a private plane? Abu Dhabi operator Royal Jet has several to choose from - with or without bedrooms.

Shane O'Hare, President & CEO, Royal Jet being welcomed in Seychelles. Phil Weymouth / Royal Jet
Shane O'Hare, President & CEO, Royal Jet being welcomed in Seychelles. Phil Weymouth / Royal Jet

Imagine pulling up outside an airplane terminal and tossing your car keys to a waiting valet before breezing through security and climbing onto a private jet.

On board you take a seat on a large leather chair and sip a drink while waiting to take off. A five-course meal by attendant cabin crew and a chef await you once in the air.

After that you sit back, recline your chair a little, raise the foot rest, plug in your headphones - proper ones that come in a leather pouch - and enjoy the ride.

Welcome to the life of a very important person.

Royal Jet, the Abu Dhabi private plane operator, last year flew thousands of them to 370 cities across the globe, from the southern tip of South America to Easter Island and Africa.

The company operates six Boeing Business Jets, the largest fleet of its kind in the world, in addition to other aircraft, including Gulfstreams, the quintessential private plane.

"On average the Boeing Business Jets fly about between 1,100 and 1,200 hours a year, which for a private jet is quite high," says Shane O'Hare, the president and chief executive.

By comparison, a similar plane operated by a low-cost commercial carrier flies about 3,000 hours annually.

"Around 25 per cent of our business looks after the wider needs of the Presidential Flight operation," says Mr O'Hare.

Another 23 per cent of the business is made up of medivac flights on behalf of insurance companies and the government.

The remaining passengers are rich people and government delegations, who have a fleet of planes with different configurations to choose from.

"They might ask for a bedroom in the back. They might ask for a bedroom in the front. They might want an aircraft with showers," says Mr O'Hare.

One of the most popular models is the DFR, a Boeing jet with a large en suite bedroom with a king-size bed, two showers, a study, a large living room in the front and capacity to seat 18 people. Then there are the AIN and DAS planes, which are identical "high-capacity" planes with seating for 50 people.

"They are very heavily used for families, Presidential Flight of Abu Dhabi, government missions, hunting trips. We do a lot of Hollywood trips for actors and actresses [in them]."

Another plane, known as Zulu to crew and customers, has a bedroom in the back, a majlis area at the front and two sections of business class.

"That's not as popular. The Arab market prefers the bedroom in the front. It's a cultural thing," says Mr O'Hare.

Another plane, the RJY, can seat 40 people and even has an "economy section" in addition to the majlis area and section for VIPs.

And then there are the Gulfstreams, which fly fast and high and are typically used for regional travel.

Fancy trying out a little of that yourself? You better have deep pockets.

Costs range from $8,000 an hour for a Gulfstream and between $15,000 and $19,000 per hour for a trip on a Boeing Business Jet.

* Gillian Duncan