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Private Aviation’s Top Firms Are in an Epic Battle for Your Business

Private Aviation’s Top Firms Are in an Epic Battle for Your Business

The perks for private-jet usage keep getting higher, with some providers such as Sentient offering nearly $200,000 in sundry benefits to their jet-card holders. Others like Wheels Up have organized member parties with celebrities like Tom Brady in Las Vegas, exclusive access to the Superbowl or, most recently, Delta Diamond Medallion status.

But the real benefit slugfest is at the pinnacle of private aviation, among the top fractional providers NetJets and Flexjet, along with VistaJet, which has a membership program and offers on-demand charters aboard its wide-ranging fleet.

Flexjet threw down the gauntlet recently at the Venice Boat Show, signing a partnership with Ferretti Yachts, one of the world’s largest yacht builders. The event on Ferretti Yachts’s new Custom Line Navetta 30 featured the two firms’ CEOs signing the new agreement in what is a first for both sectors.

Aviation providers like VistaJet are upping the ante with locally sourced foods and curated wines.

VistaJet

Flexjet chairman Kenn Ricci said his company has done partnerships with fashion and car brands. “Our relationship with Bentley turned out to be phenomenally successful,” Ricci tells Robb Report. “We did a G650 interior that looked like one of their bespoke cars to show how we can customize cabins. That got people coming to see the plane all the time at our static displays.”

The companies are still opaque about how the long-term relationship will work, but have decided on a half-dozen curated events that involve both boats and aircraft. “We need a reason to bring all of our clients together,” says Ricci. “It might be a private concert or, even the Flexjet chairman’s event like we recently hosted on Lake Como, where we flew clients by helicopter to the Riva facility in Lake Sarnico for a custom tour. Almost all our clients own yachts and aircraft, so there’s a natural crossover.”

Ferretti and Flexjet sign a partnership for a yacht and aircraft agreement.

Ferretti Yachts CEO Alberto Galassi and Flexjet Chairman Kenn Ricci recently signed a partnership to offer services from both companies.

Flexjet

“We speak the same language,” says Alberto Galassi, CEO of the Ferretti Group, which hosted the Flexjet brass at a private Elton John concert the yacht group arranged last year. “We’re not just selling a boat, but a lifestyle that includes privacy and freedom—on top of using the boat or jet as a tool, if you sell the experience, they will never leave you.”

“The better experience a client has, the less likely they’ll want to give up that provider when it’s time to re-up,” agrees Doug Gollan, founder of privatejetcardcomparisons.com, which provides guidance to consumers on hundreds of jet cards and membership programs. “The companies are essentially selling flight time in a metal tube, so these programs become their brand differentiators.”

VistaJet bespoke trips

VistaJet’s 360 Wellness program includes bespoke health trips to remote areas around the world, including one to healers in Mexico.

Abercrombie & Kent

VistaJet’s programs range from wine tastings at altitude to menus created by chefs at Michelin-star restaurants, supplemented by locally sourced ingredients from more than 7,000 suppliers. Its most recent, the 360 Wellness program, is based on a McKinsey & Co. study that found the global wellness industry is a growing market worth more than $1.5 trillion.

“The study confirmed our belief that a wellness program was a necessary part of the VistaJet offering,” Leona Qi, president of VistaJet US, told Robb Report at a press event on a flight aboard one of its Bombardier Global 7500 flagships.

Clients meet with a nutritionist pre-flight to discuss in-flight meal planning, use strategies during the flight to adjust to different time zones, and employ post-flight rehydration methods. Jordan Shlain, M.D., a specialist in longevity practices who helped devise the program, spoke to the group about how to add good years over a lifetime via small steps, as well as the best ways to mitigate jet lag.

VistaJet wine and cuisine.

Tableside service is now common in the large-body business jets.

VistaJet

VistaJet also extended the wellness concept to a series of bespoke travel experiences to areas knowm for longevity. They include 21-day Buddhist journeys in Nepal and Bhutan, communing with native herbalists in Sacred Valley, Peru, rejuvenation retreats at the Clinique Nescens in Switzerland, and cold-water therapy in Sweden’s Northern Lapland. “The goal is to create new remedies and practices to add value to life,” says Matteo Atti, chief marketing officer.

“People aren’t going to invest millions in a program just because of these benefits,” says Gollan. “But if they’re relevant and interesting, and deliver experiences you just can’t buy, they might help move them in that direction, provided it’s also a smart business decision.”

NetJets’s affiliation with the R&A, organizers of the Open golf tournament, gives its members exclusive access to one of Britain’s most famous events, happening in July at Royal Troon, Scotland. NetJets has more than 50 professional golfers in its fractional program, including eight of the last 10 Open champions. Its brand partnerships also extend into the most famous equestrian events, motorsports like the Monaco Grand Prix, professional tennis, multiple vineyards, and yacht charters.

Parisian artist Silvère Jarrosson NetJets Art Basel.

Parisian artist Silvère Jarrosson worked with NetJets at Art Basel to promote fine arts.

NetJets

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Last weekend, the Berkshire Hathaway company commissioned Parisian artist Silvère Jarrosson for a painting for its Art Basel room, an owners-only area that provided a private space during the annual arts festival. Patrick Gallagher, president of sales, marketing and service, said the exhibit was part of its initiative to “create and capture exceptional experiences,” but this one was for NetJets’s owners “deeply interested in fine art.”

The battle for top perk is also evident on the aircraft. Flexjet’s Red Label program was introduced in 2015 to create a singular owner experience , including dedicated flight crews and aircraft, as well as customized cabins. Ricci, who has a love of design and architecture, figured that clients paying millions each year should have aircraft reflecting the same level of UHNWI experience in hotels or resorts. Its LXi custom cabin program includes 50 interior designs across its fleet, from its midsized to ultra-long-range aircraft, with themes like Art Deco, Thunderbird, Santa Fe, Pewter, and many others.

Flexjet Red Label Academy

The Red Label Academy at Flexjet’s Farnborough headquarters teaches flight attendants the art of preparing on-board meals as well as other white-glove services.

Flexjet

On our press flight from London to Venice for the Ferretti event, Flexjet had modified the G650’s interior beyond the typical configuration to include two seats that create a dining area in the center section. We also enjoyed exceptional wine and dinner service from the flight attendants, graduates of Flexjet’s Red Label Academy in Farnborough. The two-week course includes full-scale mockups of aircraft cabins for real-world training as well as instruction from professional chefs, sommeliers, cocktail mixologists and other hospitality experts. The course also teaches skills for pets and children, two areas which all the top providers see as potential growth areas.

“Our aim is to get to know each client at a granular level, so we build a dossier with details as small as what temperature they like their drinking water,” says Megan Wolf, Flexjet’s chief experience officer, adding that the firm is not just a private-jet provider, but also in the hospitality business.

The attendants have also moved beyond simply serving food, often preparing it tableside, along with offering family-style meals per the clients’ requests. Gollan says Flexjet, NetJets and VistaJet, which have the largest fleets of long-range jets are among the few providers able to offer this kind of service. “The large cabins and galleys let you execute things like this in flight that you can’t do on smaller jets,” he says.

Aviation firms are trying to bring back the glory days of flying.

Linen table cloths, crystal and fine china. The top aviation providers are doing their best to back the glory days of flight from the 1960s.

Getty Images

Returning to the glory days of flight, when first class flight meant linen tablecloths and crystal china, or drinking in the bar on the top deck of a PanAm 747, also seems to be an impetus for the upscaling of cabin service.

Gollan doesn’t expect the race to the top to develop ever-more elaborate benefits to slow down. “These programs are highly creative and constantly upping the ante,” he says. “But they can also be difficult to execute. I’m sure they give the operations folks a lot of gray hair fulfilling them.”



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