GETTING THE ROYAL TREATMENT
When I travel, I always book an aisle seat as close to the front of the aircraft as possible. I can’t bear the wait for the seatbelt lights to switch off so that I can get up and get out, after retrieving my authorised-size carryon luggage from the overhead baggage compartment. The wait for the aircraft doors to open can also feel interminable depending on which airline I’m flying with, in which class and to which destination. Make that happen quickly and smoothly, and I’m happy. Granted, that’s usually been on a business-class flight on a major airline but I’ve had a similar experience when buying an empty leg seat on a private air charter from Durban to Johannesburg for a business meeting.
The eight-seater business jet had flown in by client request from OR Tambo International Airport and would have returned empty (hence the term empty leg), had the charter company not chosen to sell the return flight at a huge discount. I felt like royalty, walking out a short distance along the tarmac to board the small but luxurious business jet with laptop and briefcase in hand. There was minimal waiting time before the flight, and the business jet received clearance for take-off soon after I arrived. The two-hour flight was quick, safe and comfortable.
Think about the flight to Mauritius, for example, where I travel regularly on business. The flying time is about five hours from Cape Town International Airport, and I usually arrive late evening. Because I’m usually headed for the east coast, which is another hour’s drive, flying by private charter can make all the difference to getting me to my luxury resort by sunset. That, and booking a rapid transit through the YU Lounge at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
I experienced it first when I flew to the island on assignment in December 2015 to attend the reopening of the Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort and Spa after a major refurbishment. As usual, I was one of the first to disembark, only to be confronted by a uniformed official bearing a sign with my name on it at the air bridge. ‘Even if you’re absolutely sure you are not a smuggler, not on the FBI’s most-wanted list and have never given the air crew lip, your blood freezes,’ I wrote in my review.
‘It turned out this was bog standard royal/rock-star treatment and that meant skipping formalities at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. His task was not to march me off for interrogation but to a waiting Porsche Cayenne. Without a word, he drove me (past several parked private jets) to a nearby building and to the big reveal – a YU Lounge. ‘And it is all about you; Champagne and canapés and a personal customs official on standby to process your arrival to Mauritius. All I had to do was hand over my passport and baggage tags and relax. No queues, no questions, no fuss.
‘This was just one of the major plus points for VIP guests travelling by private jet or commercial airline en route to their little piece of paradise. In airport terms, the 30 minutes it took to ‘process’ me was in speed terms a bullet train.’
Tips for flying via private charter
- An empty leg offer requires that all the seats on the return journey are booked. You can’t only buy one or two seats. The cost will depend on the type of aircraft, length of flight, location and time of flight scheduled.
- Book a private charter through Swift Flite to get the most out of your business day if you need to close a deal at a remote or urban destination within a short turnaround time.
- Even better, book a business jet or turboprop through Swift Flite for that much-needed downtime on a private island or in the bush.
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