Business: The beginners guide to private air travel

Image courtesy of GB Helicopters

Image courtesy of GB Helicopters - Credit: Archant

Every year the pace of life at the top gets more hectic. Demands grow on the time of successful entrepreneurs and senior executives. Precious hours spent stuck in traffic on the M6 are lost forever. For such people travel services that make journeys more direct, comfortable and reliable are especially attractive; for these high flyers chartering private jets and helicopters can be well worth the premium price says Martin Pilkington

The Private Jet Charter-Broker

Adie Mike had his own taste of the high life when he played for Manchester City in the early years of the Premier League. Now he runs Falcona Private Jets, based in Altrincham, with top flight players among the most frequent users of his firm’s services.

‘We’re a charter broker, we don’t own the aircraft but have access to something over 3000, so we can source pretty much any type and size - we went to look yesterday at an aircraft with 102 business class seats on it, that’s pretty much the top of the size range.’

There’s no denying that using such a service must boost the ego and make a statement to the world, but Adie is keen to emphasise the practical reasons top business-people and celebrities choose to fly by private jet: ‘For business users speed and flexibility more than anything else are important. If a meeting overruns the aircraft will wait so you won’t miss your flight, you can dictate what time you want to leave. That’s a major benefit for senior executives, so they won’t be delayed and miss their next meeting.

‘A lot of celebrities and sports stars go for this service too: they can turn up for a flight, have no hassle and are away on their holidays or to work and nobody is aware of it.’

As the rest of us snake slowly through airport security and immigration the private jet experience is rather different: ‘The private terminal at Manchester Airport is separate from the main terminals with a different entrance, so it is more private and quiet,’ Adie explains: ‘When you turn up you’re greeted by the staff, and can have a tea or coffee in the lounge area. But clients can arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the flight and, if the aircraft is ready, can head straight aboard. As regards immigration it’s all pre-cleared, you don’t need to show your passport generally.’

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Within Europe Geneva is Falcona’s most frequent business destination. Adie’s clientele also favour leisure destinations like La Manga, Sardinia and Monaco, but he’s hopeful that as Manchester’s Airport City project progresses long-haul business with China could develop.

For those dreaming of trying it there’s hope yet: ‘For say six people Manchester-London on the right aircraft it’s about the equivalent of business class prices, so reasonably affordable,’ he says. Maybe one day.

Private Jetiquette – Tips for Higher Flyers

1. Filling the plane reduces unit costs, but it’s more about saving time than money.

2. Speaking of which, private jets fly to many more (often far smaller) facilities than the airlines. There may be something nearer your eventual destination than a major airport.

3. The service is built around your arrival, so let them know when you’re on the way.

4. Your plane, so (within reason and with notice) your menu.

5. Don’t hassle any celebs in the terminal – respect their privacy, which includes tweets about them, autographs, and intrusive selfies.

6. Unless you arrive direct from a power meeting, dress for in-flight comfort without going down-market – the smart side of smart-casual won’t be far wrong.

7. Making a loadsamoney fuss has the opposite effect to that intended.

8. Leave pilots and any crew in peace during take-off and landing; be polite, they’re professionals; but tipping (handsomely) for great service is not a faux pas.

I Have a Big Chopper!

With its offices in Snelson, between Knutsford and Macclesfield, GB Helicopters is one of the UK’s leading helicopter charter firms, offering luxury travel along with filming services and aerial surveys for clients like utility companies. Three of its fleet of eight aircraft work out of the Manchester-Cheshire area.

‘We do a lot of VIP charter, mainly for businesses, businessmen and -women going to London and other cities. Manchester – London Battersea Heliport typically takes one hour 10 minutes depending on where we depart from,’ says Operations Manager Abi Hensby: ‘We do tend to do quite a few pickups from Barton – there’s a departure lounge at Barton heliport that passengers can go to, park up and then wait for the aircraft, though if we have clients with enough land at their property we can pick them up there as well. As long as the landing site is suitable for the helicopter we can do door-to-door service.’

Travelling by helicopter saves time and avoids hassle, as it does with private jets, and both can be very discreet. But it’s hard not to imagine that sometimes the helicopter option may also be about making an entrance: GB’s aircraft ferry clients to major social events like Silverstone, Ascot, Cheltenham and the country’s best grouse moors. Arriving in a luxury limousine draws one picture, stepping out of an AS355 Twin Squirrel helicopter, leather interior and all, paints it in oils.