For many families excited about a holiday getaway this summer, their journey on a budget airline is likely to be crammed, uncomfortable and quite possibly delayed.
But for those fortune enough to be extremely wealthy, they can enjoy an altogether different experience of ultra luxurious ‘air cruises’ costing up to £200,000 each.
High-end trips on so called ‘air cruises’ taking small groups around the world in private jets have been growing in popularity after the pandemic and are now offered by several operators.
Those boarding on of the aircraft can look forward to comforts such as Italian leather lie-flat seats, Mongolian cashmere blankets and Dom Perignon champagne.
Trips on these exclusive planes – described as a ‘five-star hotel on wings’ – also come with global inflight Wi-Fi and an army of top private chefs serving caviar.
Some operators run trips where guests can organise the itinerary in partnership with the firm – such as a 15-day whisky tour by private jet offered by Pelorus, for which prices start at £1.2million for six people, equating to £200,000 each. The tour visits Japan, the US, Scotland and Ireland and includes some of the world’s rarest tipples.
Among the trips found by MailOnline was a 23-day tour run by Four Seasons visiting Asia, Africa and Europe for £155,000 per person based on double occupancy.
Those boarding one of the luxury aircraft can look forward to Dom Perignon champagne
National Geographic Expeditions offers round-the-world tours on Boeing 757 private jets
Top private chefs serve caviar on board the planes, with trips costing up to £200,000 each
The tour in September and October next year will fly travellers from Seattle to Kyoto, then Hoi An, the Maldives, Serengeti, Marrakech, Budapest, Florence and Paris.
What sort of itinerary can luxury ‘air cruise’ travellers expect?
Here is the schedule for the Abercrombie & Kent tour ‘Wildlife & Nature: Around the World by Private Jet 2024’ which runs from September 2 to 27 next year for £131,000 per person and is limited to 48 guests:
September 2: Arrive in Kona in Hawaii and transfer to the Mauna Lani resort for a private cocktail party and dinner to meet fellow guests and tour leaders.
September 5: Arrive in Fiji to see traditional tribal drummers, before dinner overlooking Natadola Bay with entertainment from local dancers.
September 7: Arrive in Hobart before flying by helicopter over Wineglass Bay for photo opportunities, landing at Lagoon Bay for an Indigenous welcome.
September 10: Arrive in Bali and take a speedboat ride to Komodo National Park, then travel to Susut Village and join a Balinese family to experience life in a traditional village.
September 13: Arrive in Sri Lanka to a traditional welcome before going on a safari drive at Yala National Park and then dress in traditional batik sarongs for dinner.
September 13: Arrive at Port Louis in Mauritius and watch a traditional Sega dance, before travelling to the Seven Coloured Earths at Chamarel.
September 18: Arrive in Zambia and stay at Lower Zambezi National Park where animals roam the unfenced camps. You can also participate in game drives and canoeing.
September 21: Arrive in Brazil before taking in the sites of Salvador and searching for a humpback whales along the coast as they perform their annual mating migration.
September 24: Arrive in Manaus and board a river cruiser ‘Grand Amazon’ for a three-day journey along the Amazon River. After the trip, fly back to Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
The firm uses a custom-fitted Airbus A321LRneo operated by Titan Airways, which has only 48 handcrafted seats that all offer 6.5ft (2m) of personal space and extend to lie fully flat, along with a plush ottoman.
Another option is a 17-day tour of South America with TCS World Travel on an Airbus A321 for £90,000 per person – taking travellers to sites including Machu Picchu and Easter Island, as well as Argentina and Colombia.
The ultra-wealthy could also look at a 26-day tour operated by Abercrombie and Kent which visits Fiji, Tasmania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Zambia and Brazil for £131,000 per person – and is again limited to 48 guests.
Smithsonian Journeys also offer a 25-day round-the-world option on an Airbus A321 visiting South America, Oceania, Asia and Africa for £98,000 per person.
The jet is configured to accommodate 52 guests with all the custom-made leather flatbed seats able to recline fully flat.
Those on the tour can also visit Machu Picchu, with other destinations including Fiji, the Great Barrier Reef, Jordan and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Travel expert Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said demand from premium leisure travellers for private jet flights in Europe is ‘relatively strong’ compared with before the pandemic, even though the actual number of private jet flights is lower than this time last year.
He told MailOnline: ‘In fact, France, Italy and the UK are the most popular European markets so far this year for flying privately.
‘Many operators are now using sustainable jet fuel to make their flights more environmentally-friendly, as well as adopting pilot techniques such as Continuous Descent Approach, when coming in to land, to use less fuel while in the air.
‘Flying by private jet is becoming a key part of many high-end travel itineraries, as some luxury trips are designed to use smaller airports which aren’t available to large, commercial airlines such as BA, American Airlines and others.’
He gave an example of the operator White Desert Antarctica, whose guests fly each summer season from Cape Town to a temporary blue ice airstrip, Wolf’s Fang Runway, in Antarctica and pay around £70,000 to do so for five days.
They can also choose the one-day experience for £8,000 per person.
Mr Charles continued: ‘Travelling seamlessly and in style to the destination is part of the experience that high-end travellers want to pay for.
Trips on private jets taking small groups around the world have been growing in popularity
A 26-day tour operated by Abercrombie and Kent for 48 guests costs £131,000 per person
Luxury bathrooms on a plane for TCS World Travel, which has been operating tours since 1991
‘I don’t see demand disappearing in future – the trend is now set for premium leisure, as well as business, travellers to choose to fly by private jet, especially as newer aircraft and more sustainable fuel are coming into operation.
‘These high-end travellers want the privacy and space to fly in style, and arrive on schedule, especially at a time when delays are now baked in if you’re flying via scheduled, commercial airlines.’
Despite the high cost, demand for some tours can be so high that they are booked up one year ahead, with industry insiders saying customers are normally from the US and over 50 years old.
Others pointed out that even though the ‘air cruises’ are experiencing growth, the concept is not actually new – with industry leader TCS having been operating them since 1991 and offering 11 trips over the next year.
Machu Picchu is among the destinations visited by the luxury ‘air cruise’ tours available
One company offers day trips for £8,000 per person to Antarctica (file picture)
Christine Gray, editor-in-chief of Luxury Travel Magazine, told MailOnline: ‘Private jet expeditions around the world have been in existence since around 1990, allowing wealthy travellers to check multiple destinations and experiences off their bucket-lists in a single trip.
‘You board a luxurious aircraft with five-star service and fly direct to remote, exotic, and iconic places in the world. The insider access makes you feel like dignitaries flying around the world.
‘Imagine having all these amazing experiences in a single trip with all the travel arrangements made for you with absolutely no hassle. Just sit back, relax, and take it all in.’
Further experts said those wanting to take the trips can ‘expect ultimate luxury’ for a high price.
Nicky Kelvin, editor at The Points Guy, told MailOnline: ‘Travelling in excess is a trend which is definitely on the rise, as those looking for a holiday now want to enjoy themselves to the max, and believe that after a difficult few years, they deserve to splash out.
The Abercrombie & Kent tour offers a safari trip to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka (file image)
Those travelling to Mauritius on one tour can witness the Seven Coloured Earths at Chamarel
‘Private jet journeys and holidays in particular are on the rise; and whilst they come at a pretty penny, guests can travel in groups to some of the most famous destinations in the world, accompanied by staff which usually includes a tour manager and private chef for the.’
He said travellers often spend a few days in each destination, choosing from a list of excursions.
Mr Kelvin continued: ‘Those travelling on the planes can expect ultimate luxury. The Four Seasons Private Jet experience in particular has 48 lie-flat seats with 6.5ft of personal space, plus an ottoman for extra legroom or for a fellow traveller to come and join you for a bit of company.
‘On the planes there is an onboard lounge for a range of activities, including intimate workshops, educational demonstrations or culinary surprises by the Four Seasons craftspeople to help pass the time.
‘The one to six crew to passenger ratio means that no traveller will go without. Even the bathroom is luxury, with a full length mirror and luxury amenities.’