Another blini for your caviar, madam? They ask me as we sail over the snow-capped mountains of Iceland and I settle into my spacious throne of cream-colored, walnut-finished Italian leather.
Around me, my fellow guests, all smartly dressed and brimming with excitement, sip perfectly chilled Dom Perignon 2013 vintage champagne (which costs over £200 a bottle) while getting to know each other.
We’re aboard Abercrombie & Kent’s private jet, flying in extreme style from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Portland, Oregon.
The company takes small groups of wealthy travelers around the world on trips costing up to £156,605 ($200,000) for up to 26 days.
Private jet trips like this have grown in popularity since the pandemic and are now offered by several luxury travel companies, including hotel groups Aman and Four Seasons. I’m trying it out for a trip.
Harriet Sime travels on Abercrombie & Kent’s private jet, which has been designed to take small groups of travelers around the world on trips costing up to £156,605. Harriet is pictured above enjoying a glass of 2013 vintage Dom Perignon champagne, which costs over £200 a bottle.
The Abercrombie & Kent jet (pictured) is a reconfigured and customized Boeing 757
As they tour the world, guests enjoy three-course meals prepared by private chefs, reclining seating, slippers and fluffy duvets, Briggs & Riley amenity bags filled with L’Occitane delights, iPads preloaded with newly released movies, a ‘button ‘ responsible for the luggage and a photographer willing to capture every moment. There is even a doctor on board throughout the trip for your ultimate peace of mind.
The Abercrombie & Kent aircraft is a reconfigured and customized Boeing 757. Planes like these usually carry about 200 passengers. But this one has only 48 handcrafted seats, similar to those in business class, that massage their occupant in different modes and lay flat with the push of a button.
I was assigned 9A, a window seat with absolutely everything I need within arm’s reach: almost as soon as I notice my phone is running out of battery, I find a charger in a side pocket; when the chatter in the cabin increases as I’m settling down for sleep, I find Bose noise-canceling headphones over my head; The moment I feel hungry or need a refill, a member of the cabin crew comes over and places something on the wide walnut table in front of me.
On the Abercrombie & Kent Wildlife Safari tour, passengers visit eight countries, stopping to see snow monkeys in Japan, bears in Malaysia, Bengal tigers in India, lemurs in Madagascar and gorillas in Uganda, all wrapped in luxury bubbles
Planes like these usually carry around 200 passengers, but this one only has 48 business class seats, Harriet reveals. She describes her seat as an “Italian throne finished in cream leather and walnut wood.”
The guest to cabin crew ratio is 1:7 and staff wear navy skirt suits, corsages and broad smiles.
During the flight, conversation flows as fast as champagne. “During these trips we became one big family,” says Ann Epting, senior vice president of private jet travel at A&K. It may seem corny, but it’s true.
As we cross the deep blue lakes of Canada, white linen tablecloths are placed on our tables and we are treated to chicken Caesar salads, followed by honey-lime glazed Arctic char with lobster sauce and a chocolate-caramel mousse pudding with crumbled brownies.
The chairs ‘massage their occupant in different ways and lay flat with the click of a button’
Harriet is impressed with the food on board, commenting that she has “eaten worse in Michelin-starred restaurants.”
As well as the best food, Harriet explains, there is an extensive and unlimited drinks menu including negronis and espresso martinis, Campari, martini, cognac and bottles of red and white wine that would cost over £100 at the local restaurant.
The guest-to-cabin crew ratio is 1:7 and “staff wear navy skirt suits, corsages and broad smiles.”
The Briggs & Riley goodie bag with L’Occitane goodies that each passenger receives
I’ve had worse meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and I can’t believe what I’m tasting at 38,000 feet.
The extensive and unlimited drinks menu includes negronis and espresso martinis, Campari, martini, cognac and bottles of red and white wine that would cost over £100 at your local restaurant.
The eight hours quickly pass in a ridiculously luxurious blur, and before we know it, the plane lands in Portland. I have never felt so sad getting off a plane.
Once we disembark, the plane is cleaned and refueled, ready for those lucky guests who continue on a 25-day Wildlife Safari tour, traveling through eight countries and making stops to see snow monkeys in Japan, bears in Malaysia , Bengal tigers in India. lemurs in Madagascar and gorillas in Uganda, all wrapped in bubbles of luxury.
In total they will be in the air for 55 hours. A similar itinerary via commercial flights would take 117 hours, plus an additional 77 hours on stopovers. A trip on another tour between Cebu in the Philippines and Sandakan in Malaysia would normally take 19 hours plus two stopovers; A&K’s private jet does it in 40 minutes.
Passengers never have to queue and are quickly passed through private terminals with immigration cards pre-loaded by staff.
Meanwhile, hotel stops are made at the world’s best brands, including The Peninsular, Shangri-La and Ritz-Carlton.
Abercrombie & Kent private jet tour passengers never have to wait in line and breeze through private terminals with immigration cards pre-loaded by staff.
If the plane lands somewhere outside the luxury hotel route, A&K will book a three- or four-star hotel and convert it to five stars. They’ll train staff (or bring their own), replace furniture, bedding and mattresses, paint walls and add artwork.
For this all-inclusive odyssey, you’re asked to pay £139,670 per person ($176,000). Demand is high and nearly 40 percent of customers return for their second, third or even ninth trip.
Guests spending what some people pay for a house means that expectations are, of course, very high. So does the staff ever say “no” to guests? “No,” is Ann’s quick response as a wry smile spreads across her face. ‘Honestly, we do everything we can to meet the needs of our guests and no is not really in our vocabulary. There was one time when a couple asked for eight feather pillows in each hotel room, so we made sure that was the case.
Then there was the woman who brought nine suitcases and presented seven pages of dietary requirements; the veterinarian who wanted to eat a pig’s head while in the remote Philippines; the man who proposed to her after being airlifted to Everest Base Camp and then asked if the staff would organize their wedding a few days later, which they did, of course, in Sicily.
So is it worth it? If you have the money, absolutely. But it is also dangerous. Fly around the world this way and you may never want to take a normal commercial flight again.