A Little Perspective

A Wells Fargo stagecoach
A Wells Fargo stagecoach
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:15am

These days, everybody complains about the airlines–rotten food, TSA hassles, cramped seating, long delays, lost luggage. And while private jet travelers are a decidedly happier lot, they’ve been known to offer the occasional gripe as well–the charter flight lacked sufficient baggage space, the catering service overcharged, the FBO disappointed.

I think it’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and garner some perspective. And what better way to do that than to compare the typical business jet flight with how you might have been traveling if you’d happened to have been born a mere 200 years ago? Here’s a look, with stagecoach details courtesy of Wikipedia:

COMFORT AND AMENITIES

Business jet: Count on reclining, oversized fine-leather seats, some with massage function. Larger jets may offer dining and conference rooms, master bedrooms with private baths and galleys stocked with fine china and gourmet food.

Stagecoach: Comforts? We’re talking 15 inches per passenger on a wooden bench inside the coach, and that’s if you were lucky: More than half a dozen travelers typically had to sit on the roof. Those in middle rows rode with their knees dovetailed. Passengers on the center seat had only a leather strap to support their backs. People spent entire journeys with bags and mail pouches between their feet. You think you’ve had bumpy rides on your business jet? Try traversing unpaved rocky roads in a horse-drawn coach–for a week.

REST STOPS AND EXERCISE

Business jet: Most flights are too short to require a stop. FBOs at both ends offer such amenities as opulent lounges and meeting rooms equipped for videoconferencing. Some incorporate fitness centers.

Stagecoach: You could expect brief stops at primitive way stations, but getting off the coach at one of them could be a mistake: If it left without you, you could be stuck for days. You could try sleeping en route but Wells Fargo cautioned passengers against snoring loudly or using fellow passengers’ shoulders as pillows. As for exercise, you might have to periodically get off the stagecoach and walk, to give the horses a break. You might also have to push the stagecoach up a hill or out of sand or mud.

SPEED

Business jet: Some models approach the speed of sound. You can leave New York or L.A. at lunchtime and easily make dinner on the other coast.

Stagecoach: Figure on four to seven miles an hour, with distances covered daily averaging 70 to 120 miles. With luck, you might be able to depart New York City before breakfast and reach the state capital of Albany in time for a midnight dinner.

TEMPERATURE AND AIR QUALITY

Business jet: Cabins are smoke-free, pressurized and climate-controlled.

Stagecoach: Temperatures ranged from sweltering to frigid. Wells Fargo provided buffalo robes in cold weather but warned that “hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.” The company didn’t permit cigars or pipes but allowed chewing tobacco so long as you “spit with the wind, not against it.”

ENTERTAINMENT

Business jet: Passengers enjoy Wi-Fi, Internet access, widescreen high-definition video, moving maps, noise-cancelling headphones and more.

Stagecoach: Um, no.

SAFETY

Business jet: Safety issues and accidents are extremely rare.

Stagecoach: Wells Fargo often advised travelers to pack a pistol or knife but to avoid alarming passengers, it forbid any onboard discussion of stagecoach robberies or Indian uprisings, both of which were common. The company also instructed passengers to remain calm in the event of runaway horses, as “leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured [or] at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.”

Now what was that you were saying about how your FBO’s espresso machine wasn’t working properly and your flight took off 20 minutes late?

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Bob Hala
on August 14, 2012 - 7:53pm

The coach experience would be better compared to traveling across the country via Greyhound, and I am not sure THAT experience has improved a lot... If you are to compare with business travel, you need to do so with how people of similar status traveled. Compare business aviation to how lords and royalty traveled. Although they still vary dramatically, it would make for a more "apples to apples" comparison.

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on August 16, 2012 - 4:39pm

Thanks for your comment. Though I was trying to make a point here, I was also more interested in having a little fun with the subject than with fashioning an exact apples-to-apples comparison. I should note, however, that a lot of people who fly privately these days are not close to being royalty. Many are employees on company-owned aircraft who are simply trying to reach hard-to-get-to places in the most efficient way possible.

Also, I doubt that anyone traveled very royally--at least in America--200 years ago. James Madison was president then, and he often got around on horseback. In fact, he once fell off his horse and injured his wrist, which points up another advantage of business jets: You're less likely to fall off. 

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JP
on January 14, 2013 - 9:46am

In other news, blood letting is not as effective a treatment for melancholy as Prozac.

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