Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Four Seasons adds new routes to $163,000-a-seat private flights

Easter Island, Mexico City, Angkor Wat and Athens are new destinations to begin in 2021 on Airbus jet

Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts is adding four new routes to its Airbus private jet flights from 2021, when it will replace the previous Boeing model it relied on for luxury group excursions around the world.

Bookings for 2021 will open Tuesday for travel packages including new destinations to Angkor Wat, Mexico City, Easter Island, and Athens, with pricing on the jet starting at $163,000 (Dh598,617) per person depending on the itinerary, Simon Casson, Four Seasons' hotel operations president for EMEA, said in an interview in Dubai.

"We are absolutely certain these would be fully-booked trips," Mr Casson told The National. "This is a lifetime event not just a holiday."

The new plane will allow travellers to book bespoke adventures around the world- such as exploring the Pacific Ocean’s secluded Easter Island by horseback - with Four Seasons arranging the trip itinerary and accommodation at each stop.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have warned about a slowdown in the global economy as the US-China trade tensions weigh on growth but Mr Casson is not concerned about the impact on luxury private jet travel.

“The macro-economic outlook has a disproportionately small effect on the demographic that would take this trip and the discretionary spend is somewhat immune to it,” Mr Casson said. “We cater to a thin slice at the top of the market.”

Demand from ultra-wealthy clientele are enough to fill the seats and drive profits at the company’s private jet business segment, he said.

The itineraries, chosen to create new experiences and attract high-end globetrotting clients to Four Seasons’ hotels worldwide, take about six to eight months to curate. The trips last up to three weeks each and attract wealthy clients who range from honeymoon couples to retired couples and business owners.

The packages revolve around experiences such as seeing gorillas up close up in Rwanda or an-out-of-hours tour of the Hermitage museum’s private art collection in St Petersburg, Russia, or the ancient giant sculptures on Easter Island.

"Easter Island is remote and not everyone gets to see it, so they have bragging rights," Mr Casson said.

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Four Seasons, Five Continents: destinations

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The private jet business of Four Seasons is a profitable segment of the business and is an “extension of the brand” that helps boost occupancy at its hotels globally, Mr Casson said.

The new A321LR narrowbody jet, chosen for its longer range to reach more direct routes, will be customised by Four Seasons and can seat 48 passengers. The previous model, a reconfigured Boeing 757, fits 52 people with pricing starting from $147,000 (Dh539,858). The company currently has no plans for another jet.

The new model’s main feature is the lounge area, that includes an onboard bar with a mixologist, master classes on topics from macaroon-decorating to learning about the next destination and providing a place for travelers to mingle.

Several Middle East destinations are part of existing packages including Dubai, Egypt and Jordan.

“There is a resurgence in the Egyptian market,” Mr Casson said. “We look at the geopolitics and where it’s safe and desirable to travel.”

One of the packages will start in December 31 with a New Year’s party in Dubai and the fireworks show over Burj Khalifa.

“Dubai is on the itinerary as a desirable and aspirational place, with shopping and beaches,” he said.

Demand from the Middle East for the Four Seasons’ private jet flights is “limited but present” with most of the trips booked by North American and European travellers, he said.

Updated: July 17, 2019 10:47 AM

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