Private Fliers Are Blending Business, Pleasure And Family Time

Presidents from NetJets to VistaJet weigh in on why their clients are now opting for more remote getaways.

By Michael Verdon 31/01/2022

Pre-pandemic, injecting fun into a business trip likely meant grabbing a few days of post-conference R&R at a five-star resort. Now, though, fliers are optimising their private-jet access in more creative ways.

“The lines are more blurred than ever,” says D. J. Hanlon, executive vice president of sales at fractional provider Flexjet. “Clients figure they can work off-site with a cell phone and laptop, so they’re exploring domestic vacation spots and realizing they don’t have to come back Sunday night.”

Leona Qi, president of VistaJet US, says one in four flights now includes children. “We’re seeing a trend of clients flying farther to remote locations and bringing their families with them,” she says.

Clive Jackson, chairman of UK-based charter firm Victor, describes a recent customer: a Swedish hedge-fund manager who spent an extended period working remotely in Florida—family in tow. “At the other end,” he says, “a CEO of a UK firm travelled to Malaga for a few days to scout investment opportunities. His wife, also employed by the company, came with him, along with their newborn and nanny. They made a holiday of it.”

Even more strategic solutions are common. Doug Gollan, publisher of online subscription service Private Jet Card Comparisons, says 43 per cent of his clients fly for both business and pleasure, often departing from a primary home for business during the week en route to a second home for the weekend. Then, Gollan says, “their spouse or partner uses a jet card to fly to that second home, and then they both fly back together on the original jet.”

VistaJet Adventures in the Sky children's program

Kids boarding a VistaJet aircraft. VistaJet

Destinations have also shifted. While Teterboro and White Plains remain the most-used private airports, second-home locations Naples and Scottsdale are now in the top 10. “During the pandemic’s depths, Billings and Casper also climbed higher,” says Patrick Gallagher, president of NetJets. “Initially, people were spending more time at second homes, but now we’re seeing them used as launch points.”

As it turns out, even luxurious second homes can become tiresome if one feels trapped there. “Work-from-home fatigue has set in,” says Suzanne Neufang, CEO of Global Business Travel Association. “So when [owners] travel for business now, they want a change of scenery and some connection.”

Meeting clients before carrying on to visit colleges with high-school-aged kids is now common, as is taking the plane to game day, according to Flexjet’s Hanlon. “People are getting more adventurous, with different levels of Covid comfort,” he says, with “many looking to outdoor events.” The most recent Formula 1 race in Austin attracted dozens of private jets. “It was insane organising the flights,” Hanlon says.

Some think b-leisure, like partially remote work, is here to stay. “We’ve never seen holiday travel patterns like last Thanksgiving,” says NetJet’s Gallagher. “We saw more people than ever flying the Saturday before Thanksgiving and returning the following Sunday. That tells me many people not only wanted to make it a whole week, but are comfortable working remotely.”

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