Turns out the Super Rich want to mix with, well, at least the next level of rich. Or at least some of the Super Rich do. When Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts launched around-the-world private jet tours with Seattle-based TCS Expeditions nearly two years ago, I for one suspected that they wouldn’t be a big draw with private jet owners. My thinking was multi-fold. The benefits of private jet ownership are being able to set your own schedule, closely control your environment including interior design of your jet in many cases, call the shots on the catering down to the smallest detail and of course decide who you want to fly with and who you don’t.
I also understand a large section of the private jet fleet isn’t suitable for round the world touring, but thinking about the above, by flying First Class on top commercial airlines one can keep their own schedule to a much larger degree than a pre-set private jet tour. What’s more, if you look at the First Class “suites” on Singapore Airlines or Emirates Airlines for example, they are more private than the configurations on these “elite” round-the-world journeys. And of course, if you want, you can stay at a Four Seasons as well, so while the curated trip sounded interesting, I saw no particular advantage for a private jet owner.
About a week ago I was in Orlando for the Grand Opening of the Four Seasons Resort at Disney World with a group of international journalists. During a session with Four Seasons Executive Vice President Susan Helstab, the round-the-world junkets came up as the hotel brand has now commissioned its owned branded Boeing 757, the trips having proved very popular that they are being expanded.
On the previous aircraft (the new one only seats 52), Helstab noted 10 of the 72 passengers on the first trip were private jet owners. While not a majority, the number was more significant than I expected. Speaking of not only the jet owners but the entire group, Helstab said the dynamic of being able to mix with other like minded folks was part of the what customers said was particularly appealing. The trips last for nearly three weeks and people are not required to stay with the journey the entire time, but she said that was a strong sense of group, with some participants even striking up conversations on business opportunities.
Cost for the trip is over $100,000 per person, so by definition there were few if any folks on the plane who were not at least High Net Worth (HNW is typically at least $1 million in net worth), although the profile of a private jet owner is typically $50 million + in net worth, squarely in the Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) range which most studies start at $20 million or $30 million.
In retrospect, it shouldn’t have surprised me. The late Deborah Natansohn who was CEO of Seabourn Cruise Lines used to regularly tell me about UHNW private jet set types who would sail on her ships, many times not even in groups, but just as couples that enjoyed the shipboard society. I think the Four Seasons private jet trip is a good reminder for luxury marketers than in many cases, the only commonality between the Super Rich is that they are all super rich which means in terms of marketing you have to cast a wide net if you want to capture as many as possible, even if that seems like a bit of an oxymoron.