Photo: David McIntosh

Can Lift Providers’ New Wave of Luxury Perks Benefit You?

Private aviation companies are supplementing flights with an increasing number of “lifestyle” offerings.

With post-pandemic demand rattling the bizav market, you may feel fortunate simply to have a jet card, membership club, or fractional provider that offers guaranteed access—or to even be on the waiting list for a program that has suspended sales to ensure current clients have enough lift. 

Yet while many private fliers seem seized by “I just need to get on a jet” fever, as Magellan Jets marketing director Garrett Sieple puts it, an increasing number of clients appear to be seeking more than point-to-point travel. As a result, numerous lift providers are enhancing their value-added lifestyle programs and partnerships. 

These offerings provide preferred access at resorts, spas, and events; unique experiences; exclusive merchandise; health and wellness offerings; and/or discounts on partner products. When coupled with the freedom private jet travel affords, they “make the services we can offer tangible and help people realize what their life could be like,” says Matteo Atti at global long-range charter fleet operator VistaJet.

Like other providers, that company foresaw lockdowns spurring demand for more seamless travel options. In response, in late 2020, it added its Private World portfolio of exclusive properties, yachts, and experiences. VistaJet, which updates the portfolio annually, now has more than 300 partner brands worldwide.

North American jet card fleet operator Jet Linx was already expanding its lifestyle offerings early in 2020, having just become a Forbes Travel Guide preferred private lift partner when the pandemic grounded virtually all operations. The result: “We had a good 12 months to build some fantastic partners in those categories before the travel spike came back,” says CEO Jamie Walker. This effort begot the Elevated Lifestyle program that the company introduced last year.

Boston-based membership and jet card brokerage Magellan Jets this year partnered with Italian golf sportswear designer Chervò to offer merchandise that bears Magellan’s name. Meanwhile,  Magellan Jets’ Wellness Jet program with Botanika Life, launched this March, offers massages,  immune-system-boosting sprays, and CBD-infused mocktails to enjoy en route to a wellness retreat at a partner hotel or resort. “We love to be able to give customers themed jets,” says Sieple.

The value of “lifestyle” perks and programs is, of course, in the eye of the passenger. Some private jet travelers are content with the standard amenities, but others’ interest in added benefits appears to grow with exposure. “The longer that we’ve been offering benefits, the more value our clients are seeing in them,” says Walker at Jet Linx.

Growing engagement also reflects the increase in non-business travel that has played a big role in private aviation’s COVID recovery. Another factor has been expanding business jet performance capabilities. 

With the addition of Bombardier’s Global 7500, the world’s longest-range purpose-built business jet, to its fleet, Malta-based VistaJet has been able to fly customers nonstop to its Private World adventure destinations from unprecedented distances, including in the last year to the Seychelles from St. Maarten (14 hours, 45 minutes flight time); and Jakarta, Indonesia from Liège, Belgium (13 hours, 30 minutes).

Also foundational: providers say that rather than being simply a mutually beneficial window-dressing arrangement with high-end purveyors, their programs answer identified needs. Some have been requested by customers while others have been gleaned from observations and reports by cabin and flight crews, thank-you notes, or other means. “Customers lead the partnerships 100 percent,” avers Sieple at Magellan Jets, which is among providers that conduct regular surveys to learn and reconfirm client interests and program preferences.

Given concerns sparked by COVID, access to five-star resorts with strong pandemic protocols that enable seamless jet-to-suite transfers are trending now, providers say, as are health and wellness offerings and partnerships with brands associated with sustainability. Expect to see more emphasis on these categories. 

Once a need is identified, “it’s up to us to find the best-in-class lifestyle partners for each of the categories we serve,” says Walker, citing Jet Linx’s long-time resorts partner Canyon Ranch as an example and a continuing “fan favorite.”

Agrees Atti, who is VistaJet’s executive vice-president of marketing: “First we find somebody that is recognized as the best in whatever they do.” But, he adds, “They need to be incredibly agile and innovative in their approach to offering the services to create something new for our customers, not simply offer what they already have. Some brands can’t adapt their services for the specific flight or mission.”

Of course, if you simply want preferred access to a luxury resort at the end of your flight, or to travel to and attend a high-profile event, or reach an exclusive destination, you don’t necessarily need a formalized benefits program. Good charter operators and brokers are well known for their big address books filled with sources for fulfilling clients’ most demanding requests, and they too are reportedly expanding their luxury services portfolio.

Early in the pandemic, charter broker Paramount Business Jets introduced a remote COVID testing service partnership, responding to “popular demand and positive feedback from clients,” CEO Richard Zaher says. And the Washington, D.C.–area company, which has long had preferred-access partnerships with vacation villas, is now seeking a yacht charter brokerage partner that’s “the right fit,” Zaher says, as “our clients like to spend time on yachts, as well.”

That said, more bespoke programs aspire to a higher level of personalized service, often under the direction of a “customer experience”-type officer, that may include hospitality school–trained cabin attendants, custom catering from top restaurants, and luxury onboard amenities.

To learn what your provider offers, start by asking your customer service rep, who should already be familiar with your travel preferences. Providers with lifestyle partnership programs also typically have an onboarding process during which they explore not only your travel tastes but favorite activities, interests, and bucket-list items, and explain how they can help fulfill them.

To gauge providers’ ability to deliver on promises, look for program details, and if not fully explained, “Ask for examples of what [these offerings] can do for you,” Atti suggests. “Often, you find people incredibly willing to help you but not structured to do it.”

In contrast, he says, maximizing the benefits of a quality lifestyle program is a simple matter: “Tell them, ‘These are the five things that I love in life. How can you help me make more of them?’” 

The answers, providers say, will unlock the true value of private jet access.