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).