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Netjets by Michaela Cordes | 4th March, 2022 | Travel

Safety, flexibility and experience have always been the key ingredients of NetJets. Since the beginning of the pandemic the world’s biggest private jet operator has grown their customer base by 350 percent. GG took an exclusive look behind the scenes…

There are some offers one simply cannot refuse. Like a glamorous invitation from NetJets – the biggest private jet operator – for a trip from Art Basel in Switzerland to Monte Carlo for the annual Monaco Yacht Show. And, of course, my special trip gets off to a fabulous start, even days before we actually take off. I receive an elegant gift, delivered by courier: a fine Smythson leather luggage tag with my initials embossed on it. Prior to our flight, I learn that there are more perks to being a NetJets owner. I automatically turn into a VIP guest at the world’s most important art fair. This means I do not have to wait in line like other visitors but am instead whisked through each gate without any delays. All I have to do is show my Covid certificate.

It’s the preview day of the world’s most renowned art show, before the official opening to the public and, of course, after a year’s hiatus, Art Basel is drawing large crowds again. But today, only VIPs and invited guests are permitted in by the exhibiting galleries who are showing their most valuable works of art, many of which will already be sold on this day.

NetJets is celebrating its 20th year as one of the biggest sponsors of the famous art fair. During those few days, the private jet company treats their owners to exclusive dinner parties to which some of the exhibiting artists are also invited. In the evening we are part of one of these elegant soirees in the place to be during Art Basel – the restaurant of the five-star Les Trois Rois hotel, where the gallerist Johann König from Berlin and the multimedia artist Austyn Weiner from Miami are both present.

“Flying with us is extraordinarily enjoyable and convenient, and gives you access to exclusive events.“ CARSTEN MICHAELIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NETJETS EUROPE

NetJets – it seems – has every reason to celebrate. The pandemic has driven the demand for private jet travel to unforeseen levels. The worldwide biggest private jet operator, which was originally established by the American businessman Richard Santulli 58 years ago and acquired by Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 1998, faces record demand of more than 350 percent. “A surprisingly large number of people have come to appreciate the value of our concept and have become owners since the Covid crisis began,” explains Carsten Michaelis, Executive Director Sales & Marketing for NetJets Europe. “We don’t just offer a hygienically safe environment, what you get is absolute freedom from the limited flight schedules that commercial airlines offer.”

Demand has exploded since 2020. The fractional ownership company (members become part owners either by buying shares in a jet or they acquire credits for several flights) will expand their existing fleet by 125 new jets this year and has plans to hire a further 300 pilots. As a safeguard against such dynamic growth, the company is also investing heavily in its own resources: Apart from spending two and a half billion dollars on new aircraft, NetJets will be investing a yearly sum of 80 million dollars in crew training alone. The company employs only the most experienced pilots, and they are always assigned to the same type of jet. Further training courses are carried out regularly at the company’s five-million-dollar training center at its European headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Demand is huge. This year we’ll be operating more than 100 jets in Europe for the very first time.” CARSTEN MICHAELIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NETJETS EUROPE

On the day of my flight, a NetJets limousine driven by a chauffeur pulls up at my hotel and takes me straight to the “Challenger 350” – a very popular jet that seats up to eight people. On board, I am greeted by flight attendant Rolanda who has been with NetJets for 21 years. After I take my plush seat, she hands me a glass of chilled champagne and some delicious macarons. Meanwhile, Paul, our pilot, who has been flying with NetJets for over 17 years, explains the exact route we will be taking to Nice. Shortly after, we take off like a rocket at a super steep angle. To avoid any bad weather, we continue flying at an altitude of about 13,700 meters.

After a soft landing, we board a waiting helicopter for Monaco. Without wasting precious time with having to change planes like on a commercial flight, we arrive shortly after on the glittering C te d’Azur. Having departed from Basel only two hours earlier, I have saved a lot of time and stress and am able to admire the latest yachts at Europe’s biggest exhibition of private boats, The Monaco Yacht Show. It’s a popular destination: Over the course of the four-day event to which 30,000 visitors are expected, a total of 168 NetJets flights will be landing here.

To encourage sustainability within the industry, NetJets began carbon-neutral operations back in 2012. The company also participates in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Recently, NetJets began investing as one of the first aviation companies in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), made from used cooking oil and household waste. SAF generates 80 percent fewer carbon emissions than conventional aircraft fuel. A few weeks later, I am taking an overbooked commercial flight and realize shamefully that this trip has spoiled me: Flying private with NetJets is just so much nicer!

IssueGG Magazine 02/22

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