As you read this, the world's largest private jet conference is taking place in Atlanta. The Georgia World Convention Center will be full with companies trying to sell luxury interiors to private jet owners that can easily cost $10 million. There will be suppliers peddling new technology to the owners' pilots and precision ovens to the flight attendants so they can prepare a better filet mignon. Private jet terminals - FBOs - will be wooing elite travelers and their flight crews alike with enhanced terminal facilities. Manufacturers such as Gulfstream, Dassault, Bombardier and the like will be announcing orders for aircraft costing as much as $50 million before being furnished as well as trying to nail down deals. While frequent travelers to Atlanta are familiar with Hartsfield International Airport, the hoards who pass through the mega-hub will probably have no idea that there will be a considerable list of centa-millionaires and billionaires in town checking out the latest private jets. That's because all of the activity on the tarmac with aircraft displays will be taking place at DeKalb Airport - an airport dedicated to just private jets.
With that in mind, I thought it is once again interesting to see that the private jet lifestyle is in fact more global than ever (in the U.S. private jets are the chariots of the Super Rich, or at least the Super Rich who favor luxury products and services)
"Here in Hong Kong, five years ago there were a thousand private planes coming in and going out. Now it's 3,000." Bombardier Asia Sales Chief Robert Dixon noted in a recent report. "The business is growing and the airport infrastructure is here."
The private jet lifestyle comes at a cost. The Bombardier Global Express he recently had sold to a Hong Kong businessman (who has homes in Los Angeles and London as well) carries a price tag of $53 million.
Still, aside from rich individuals, a key growth market in Asia is with corporations, whose busy chief executives see the saving in time as far more precious than the cost of the plane itself.
Once a plane is bought, it has to be maintained. The report noted that some owners will charter out their planes when not in use and in Hong Kong a company called Metrojet provides this service. It also happens to be owned by Sir Michael Kadoorie, who also owns The Peninsula Hotels.
On a recent day at Hong Kong's busy airport, there were some 25 private jets on the tarmac.
In South Korea, private jet travel is also taking off. The former main airport Kimpo was renamed Gimpo when the modern new airport serving Seoul opened at Incheon.
According to the Korea Airports Corporation, arrival and departure of private airplanes in Gimpo Airport jumped by 250 (nearly 150 percent) in just a year, from 179 to 429 per month in 2006. Through September, private jet movements have increased a further 64 percent, with many executives flying commercially to Asia and then using private jets to hop around the continent, particularly to secondary cities in China and beach resorts. Getting in on the action, Korean Air now offers a private jet charter service, enabling customers to combine its trans-Pacific and Europe flights with direct connections to wherever they want to go.
By Doug Gollan
Pres Of Elite Traveler