On The Road: Holiday Wish List
A million bucks could buy a fair amount of bizjet fun, concludes our columnist, but why dream small?
In the Middle Ages, the poet Dante Alighieri was famous partly for making lists. For the Inferno, he drew up one that relegated the sinful, the lustful and others into nine circles of Hell. And in the Paradisio, he described an angelic hierarchy that arranged heavenly hosts in nine elite-status ranks, from exalted “seraphim” down to common “angels.”
So the great Dante needed only nine status levels. The airlines have devised considerably more.
Recently, while standing in a morose crowd at an airport departure gate as boarding finally commenced for a badly delayed American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix, I tried to keep track of the pecking order. But I lost count after first class, uniformed military, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, oneworld Sapphire and Emerald, AAdvangage Gold and oneworld Ruby. The list went on and on, and ultimately all the way down to me, in grubby Zone 4, a step ahead of the wretches in Zone 5. In my hand was a boarding pass that would cram me, for a five-hour flight, into a space that the U.S. Agriculture Department would deem too constricted for the transport of a farm animal.
A woman behind me muttered wearily, “If I had a million dollars, I’d never get on an airliner again.” As she spoke, holiday music was playing somewhere in the departure lounge, and I began daydreaming. If I had an extra million dollars, I thought, I’d have a Christmas wish list involving air travel, but none of it would be on an airliner.
When I finally arrived home, I decided to do some investigating. What exactly could I do with that kind of money?
“A million dollars gets you a lot of flying,” said Adam Twidell, the founder and CEO of PrivateFly, a London-based charter broker for business jets. “You can hit every major city in the world in a month in a private jet.”
That seemed like fun, I told him, but while my holiday fantasy included a million dollars for travel money, it was hard for me to even imagine having a whole month of free time.
“So how about celebrating New Year’s Eve twice, starting at midnight in Sydney, Australia? Then you fly back across the International Date Line after you’ve slept for eight hours and celebrate again, in Hawaii.”
I‘m not normally a big New Year’s Eve reveler, but that sounded interesting, given the million dollars burning a hole in my pocket. So how much?
“I would say you’re looking at $150,000 on a GV, Sydney to Hawaii,” Twidell said. Other themed leisure-time capers Twidell suggested include whirlwind tours of the finest museums or beaches of the world. Or maybe I’d want to dash from one major sporting event or concert to another on the same day or weekend or take my friends along on a trip to just about anywhere.
“We had one client, a university professor, who found some drug and commercialized it and started having serious money,” Twidell recalled. “He took his hill-walking buddies to Ireland to climb some hills there, and then they popped off straight on to Spain to climb a mountain. So all of these guys who’d never flown in a private jet before got on with their hiking boots and away they went, landing at the closest airport to their hills.”
I started to think about where I could take my friends and the list quickly got so long that I realized a million bucks for charter wouldn’t suffice. What I needed to do was up the ante and put my very own bizjet on my wish list.
Lucky me; evidently deals are available. “The most bang for your buck right now is probably a preowned [Gulfstream] GIV,” said Vincent M. Wolanin, CEO of PrivateSky Aviation, a business-jet maintenance and refurbishing company in Fort Myers, Florida. At the end of summer, he said, 25 used GIVs were on the market, with others available off-market, for about $2.8 million to $7.4 million. There also were 27 GIV-SPs listed, from $4.95 to $8.25 million.
Of course, I’d need to spend more to get the jet into shape. “You can put anywhere from $3 million to $7 million into the airplane, but when you’re finished, you’ve got like a brand-new jet,” Wolanin said.
Well, cue the holiday music! However, as usual, I have exceeded my limit for Christmas-list spending, if only in my dreams.
Joe Sharkey, whose column appears regularly in BJT, covered business travel for the New York Times for 16 years.