private jet tours

Private jet tours: lavish, luxe and, for some, a good value

My story this week for CNBC is all about ultra-luxe private jet tours.

Here are the details. Start saving your pennies…

There’s luxury travel and then there’s super-luxury travel.

And by any measure, touring the world on a specially outfitted private jet with 15 to 50 like-minded passengers all on the same financial playing field falls into the “ultra-luxe” category.

It’s not for everyone, of course. But for well-to-do, worldly travelers with destinations and experiences still on their bucket lists, joining a private jet tour is a popular way to efficiently explore the world in the lap of luxury.

These all-inclusive trips can cost more than $100,000 per person, “But the level of care, the food and beverage offerings and the special amenities and white glove services are top of the line,” said Becky Powell, President of Protravel International, “What really makes these journeys special is the ability to visit many exotic and off-the-beaten track destinations, stay in unique high-end accommodations and have access to curated, insider experiences.”

Sound like your kind of travel? Here are some private jet journeys to consider.

Culture, education and convenience

National Geographic Private Jet Expeditions and Smithsonian Journeys offer tours for the high-end market that focus on education and culture, said Julie Danziger, managing partner at adventure travel company, Embark, “With the big draw being the specialty guides and the people hosting the tours.”

National Geographic Private Jet Expeditions:

Trips start at: $78, 945 per person.

In the air: A Boeing 757 jet with 48-75 leather seats (depending on the trip) in a 2×2 configuration. Crew includes an expedition chef, catering officer and dedicated luggage handler.

On the ground: Itineraries include Africa, Central and South America, Around the World

Smithsonian Journeys

Trips start at: $85,950 per person.  

In the air: Boeing 757 custom-configured jet with 76 business-class seats

On the ground: Itineraries include Around the World, including Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Samoa, Petra, Marrakech.

Four Seasons Private Jet Experience

When Michael Petrina got an email describing a Four Seasons’ tour, he thought it was “ridiculously extravagant and crazy.” But the retired lawyer analyzed the offer and now he and his spouse are packing for their fourth Four Seasons private jet tour. “It’s definitely an investment,” said Petrina, “But you’re given the opportunity to see remote places you wouldn’t go on your own and in a very comfortable fashion.”

Trips start at: $163,000 per person; 21 – 24 days.

In the air: Customized Boeing 757 jet with 52-flat Italian leather flat-bed seats. A new Airbus A321neo with 48 seats and a social space for workshops and classes will debut in 2021.

“We consider the airplane to be our 116th hotel and these trips an extension of our brand,” said Javier Loureiro, Director of Guest Experience on the Four Seasons jet.

On the ground: Itineraries include the International Intrigue tour, with 9 destinations, including Kyoto, Serengeti, Budapest, St. Petersburg and Paris, with accommodations at Four Seasons hotels.

Abercrombie and Kent

In addition to fine dining, curated cultural events and an executive chef, a bonus on Abercrombie and Kent’s around-the-world private jet tours is that they’re hosted by company founder and co-chairman Geoffrey Kent.

“Guests on these kinds of adventures take pleasure in meeting like-minded people with a shared curiosity about the world,” said Kent, “We also find that once-in-a-lifetime trips, such as a Private Jet Journey, tends to attract more solo travelers as well. I believe this is due to the unique destinations visited on these trips, as well as the length of the programs.”

Trips start at: $32, 495 (regional) and $160,000 per person (Around the World)

In the air: Chartered Boeing 757 with 50-custom-designed Italian leather fully lie-flat seats. One cabin attendant for every seven guests and a dedicated luggage manager.

On the ground: Regional Wings Over the World Journeys (13-16 guests) and Around the World with Geoffrey Kent tours (48 guests)  

Remote Lands

On Aman Private Jet Expeditions, operated by Remote Lands, groups of about 16 guests travel by small private jets to exotic locations in Asia (and sometimes Europe) and stay exclusively in hotels and resorts within the luxury Aman chain. During the day, guests have private cars and guides; evenings feature lavish dinners and cocktail parties.

“Going with a small group of like-minded people is a lot of fun,” said Catherine Heald, Remote Lands co-founder and CEO, “If you just go with your spouse it’s not going to be the same kind of party.”

Trips start at: $60,000

In the air: Airbus 318s and chartered business jets with living-room like interiors.

On the ground: The Grandest Tour ($128,000 per person) is a 9-country, 21-night tour to Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan, India, Greece, Montenegro and Italy.

TCS World Travel

A  leader in private jet touring, TCS World Travel partners with Smithsonian Journeys, Four Season and others but also offers its own regionally focused adventures and around-the-world journeys.

As with most trips mentioned here, “all-inclusive” covers private chartered jets, first-class accommodations, ground transportation, meals and beverages, sightseeing and special access visits, luggage handling, gratuities and a team that includes a trip physician.

Prices start at: $72, 950

In the air: Boeing 757 and mid-sized private jets, such as the A318-100 and Bombardier Challenger series.

On the ground: Regionally focused adventures and around-the-world journeys. A President’s Journey Around the World (favorite sites of company president Shelley Cline) is $134,000 per person and will visit 7 destinations in 24 days.

Red Savannah

Courtesy White Desert

A new Antarctic itinerary from luxury travel company Red Savannah makes great use of private jets. Antarctica by Private Jet includes roundtrip transfers from Cape Town to Antarctica as well as flights in Antarctica to/from the South Pole and to/from an Emperor Penguin Colony.

Prices start at: $96,000

In the air: Small private jets carry guests fly from Cape Town, South Africa to an exclusive private jet runway in Antarctica.

On the ground: Antarctica by Private jet trip includes visits to an Emperor Penguin colony, trekking and exploring ice tunnels, spending a night in the South Pole and staying in a private sleeping pod. 

Crystal Skye

Most people associate Crystal with its luxury cruise line, but in 2017 the company debuted Crystal Skye, a lavishly transformed Boeing 777 aircraft with 88 lie-flat seats, a bar and social lounge, and an in-flight crew with an executive chef.

Scheduled private jet tours didn’t pan out, but now Crystal AirCruises offers the plane as the world’s largest private jet for charter.

“Sports teams have rented the plane, and we’ve had weddings and bar mitzvahs on board,” said Richard Ziskind, Vice President & Managing Director of Crystal AirCruises, “We also had a couple celebrate their anniversary by renting one of Crystal’s yachts and renting the plane to take their guests to parties in two cities.”

Price to charter: $350,000 to over $1 million.

Luxury private jet tours: global access for a six-figure price


Courtesy InTrav


While the average consumer may get irked over the latest $5 airline fee increase, new travel company Intrav is going after an entirely different breed of passenger: the kind that can afford a $109,450 luxury airline ticket.

Pricey, sure, but it will get you far. InTrav president Linda Wischmeyer said the company will offer a dozen different itineraries in 2014 and 2015, kicking off in April of next year with a 25-day journey around the world that includes stops in Bora Bora, Myanmar, Istanbul and Sydney, Australia. $99,950 seats are available as well for double occupancy rooms.

Each locale offers a customized itinerary, five-star hotels and meals, behind-the-scenes excursions, upscale tours, and a souvenir iPad loaded with trip documentation, destination info and in-flight entertainment.

“There are more people than you think that can afford this,” said InTrav president Linda Wischmeyer. “They just don’t know that is exists.”

The timing is ripe for the high-end travel market. A new study found that in 2012, for the first time since the government began tracking the relevant data, the top 10% of earners took in more than half the nation’s income. The bottom 99% saw their incomes grow during the 2009-2012 recovery as well, but only by .4%. The incomes of the most wealthy, thanks in part to their stock market investments, have increased by 31.4%. For those with the means, luxury jet travel companies are there to serve their appetite.

But luxury private jet tours are not new. InTrav’s owner himself previously founded an air charter tour company in 1959. The new InTrav “is now going up against some of the best in the business,” said Brian Robertson, owner of Robertson International Travel Consultants in Santa Barbara, Calif.

With companies such as Travcoa, TCS & Starquest Expeditions, and National Geographic Expeditions also organizing luxury jet tours, “It’s just starting to get really interesting,” said Robertson.

InTrav hopes to serve this market with upscale, all-inclusive tours for 50 people traveling on a Boeing 757-200ER aircraft outfitted with amenities such as Wi-Fi, an on-board chef and custom lie-flat seats. The plane is owned by IcelandAir, but outfitted for and leased exclusively to Intrav. The hefty deposits are protected by U.S. Department of Transportation rules that require holding them in escrow until the adventure begins.

Another company targeting elite travelers is Abercrombie & Kent, which just brought back its private jet tour product after a five year hiatus. The company’s first scheduled around-the-world trip for 50 people on a Boeing 757-200ER jet quickly sold out, with fares at $105,000 per person (double occupancy).

“I signed up the day it was announced,” said Jim Roberts, a 72-year old attorney from Wausau, WI who has traveled on an around-the-world trip with Abercrombie & Kent before. “This one has a totally different itinerary with some hard-to-get-to destinations and activities, such a cruise on the Amazon, that appeal to me.” While Roberts is a savvy enough traveler to get around the world on his own, he places high value on the fun and interesting people and the unique experiences that are part of the tour, such as sunrise access to the Taj Mahal.

“Getting to all these places would probably take me a decade to complete if I did it in bits and pieces,” said Goodwin, a 55-year-old New Yorker considering joining the inaugural InTrav around-the-world trip with his fiancé. He likes the itinerary, the fact that there’s Wi-Fi on the plane, and that the trip is “five-stars all the way.” For now, the only thing keeping Goodwin from booking the trip is that “with so many great places to see, I worry I’ll end up wishing I could stay longer in some places so I can see more.”

As the economy improves, especially for those at higher-end of the income ladder, the market for pricey globe-trotting tours continues to heat up.

“The luxury travel business has never been busier,” said David Lowy, president of Renshaw Travel & Cruise Concepts, a luxury agency in Vancouver, B.C. “These are not glorified bus tours,” he said. “They are high-end tours that you could not even begin to do with $100,000 on your own.”

(My story about luxury, private jet tours first appeared on NBC News Travel).