Are Private Jets Really A Business Tool? The real story from a corporate flight attendant.
Companies want to make money. At first glance owning a private jet sounds like a deep black hole for investors money, not a tool to improve their bottom line. Is the fact that it is not a clear quantifiable money maker mean its a money waster?
The cost to own and operate a business jet came under the microscope in 2008, when the Detroit automakers flew in their private jets to Washington for public funds to save their industry. In the midst of a financial crisis, the optics did not reflect well. Visions of reckless spending and debauchery, whether true or not, made it difficult for companies to justify this pricey asset.*
So, what really goes on in those jets? Is there justification for owning a private jet as a business tool, or just another example of corporate greed and excess?
Well, I can tell you first hand from the perspective of a corporate flight attendant who has worked on company jets for over 25 years. It would be exciting and racy to tell you the extravagances and hedonistic behavior I have witnessed on board. To share the stories of lavish parties and Dom Perignon fountains. But if I did, I would be making them up. I am sure some flight attendants or pilots may have some stories, but my experience in my 25 years of working for Fortune 500 companies is rather tame.
There has never been a request for caviar, I have had one request for champagne, and never have I witnessed anything that would raise much of an eyebrow. I have seen a limo pull up to the aircraft only once, and the Executive was livid! It never happened again.
I have served more chicken sandwiches and potato chips than filet and lobster tails or caviar. My wine just ages on the shelf and my minis of liquor end up evaporating from the dry air at altitude before they are ever consumed by my passengers. I have spent more time assuring the WiFi is in network than serving drinks!
Why you ask?
Because these airplanes really are business tools, not party central. It is a virtual office in the sky. High speed internet, phones, printers, and charging ports are standard on business jets. The time spent on board is for prepping for a meeting, practicing speeches, holding meetings, and communicating with your team.
Corporate jets may be somewhat grounded during the current crisis of a Global Pandemic, when business is happening more on Zoom than in person, but the value of owning or chartering a jet for business went up. Beyond the time savings, flexibility and efficiency of private jet ownership, the Covid pandemic has created more interest in private jets for mitigating the health risk for the C-suite as well as other company employees.
Though business travel may be at an all time low, we are only a few vaccines and antibody treatments away from being back to full throttle with even more business jet owners taking to the skies.
It may seem an extravagance, and yes, it is a luxury, but it is also an incredible resource. What was a symbol of corporate excess in 2009 may be an indispensable business tool for 2021.
*Note-There are many articles written about all the whys and ways to justify owning a private jet for your business. NBAA has an extensive business aviation fact book at nbaa.org