A new private jet is taking to the skies as part of a fleet of 700 that Warren Buffett calls his own…well not exactly his own.
Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) owns NetJets, which allows people to buy shares of a private jet or lease them, or buy some flying time. A recent unveiling of one of their new planes gave Yahoo Finance the opportunity to see firsthand what this luxury enjoyed by the rich and famous is like.
Describing the service, NetJets CEO Jordan Hansell tell us, “It’s not inexpensive. It’s something you’ve got to be prepared to take on, but when people do, they describe it as something they would never give up.”
That could also be why, as commercial airlines step-up premium services, with even low cost carrier Jet Blue (JBLU) getting into that game adding a new class called “Mint” on some flights, Hansell doesn’t see them as competition.
“I think they do a very nice job, but there’s a difference between first-class travel on a common carrier and flying on your own aircraft where you control everything,” Hansell says, pointing out that travelers flying private do not have to go through airport security, can customize the experience however they like with catered food, and can make travel changes on a whim.
And the blessing of Buffett is a specific public relations benefit, according to the company (one customer testimonial on NetJets' website specifically cites Warren Buffett's use of the service as a reason for choosing it).
“Warren and his family flew over 5,000 hours on our fleet and having Berkshire’s backing and Warren’s imprimatur couldn’t be more important,” says Hansell.
Also important to their business: personal wealth has increased with the market gains of the past few years. While the rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats as inequality has also increased, we asked the CEO if it’s helped more of their flights take off. He does attribute factors like the stock market doing well and the economy starting to comeback as possible reasons flying demand is up — according to him it’s risen 7% to 10% year-over-year. He says sales demand is up, too. More broadly, the company reports demand has not yet climbed back to pre-recession levels for the U.S. or globally.
Next for NetJets is entry into China (they already operate in Europe) -- the company expects final approval by Chinese regulators in August, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So, what would it cost YOU to fly like the Oracle of Omaha?
Buying a Marquis Jet Card will get you 25 hours of fly time, and according to the CEO, is the lowest cost option at a price of $120,000 to $130,000. The bill goes up, up and away from there, with planes going all the way up to $65 million.
Prohibitively expensive? If you still want a taste of travel PJ-style, Marketwatch reports there are a handful of sites and private jet companies (like JetSuite.com and Surf Air) that offer last-minute deals on unused inventory or are changing the cost structure all together to make private plane travel more affordable. Some of the flights are under $200 per person.
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