Anticipation is key to all first-time experiences, especially if one is bubble-wrapped in luxury. When I was invited for a Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Delhi tour on a Global 6000 private luxury jet by business aviation services provider VistaJet, I was more than just excited.
The Global 6000 is a 15-seater, long-range, premium aircraft manufactured by Bombardier. About 15 metres long, it can cruise at an altitude of more than 45,000 feet at a top speed of 950 kilometres per hour. A full tank can keep it in air for 13 hours non-stop. An hour on any of VistaJet’s 61 jets will set you back by $13,000-18,000 (Rs.8.6-12 lakh) on an average.
A white Mercedes S350 CDI came to pick me up from home on the day of the flight. I eased into the back seat, letting the euphoria sink in. Delhi traffic suddenly became bearable and the April sun not so hot. A boarding pass awaited me at the VIP lounge of the Delhi domestic airport. Had it been a commercial flight, I would have been scampering inside the airport through various queues.
Security check was as stringent as for any other commercial flight, but faster. We were greeted by our captain Craig Hume from South Africa and lead hostess Maria Carballo from Spain on the tarmac and shown inside.
This then was the moment of truth. Did my first look inside the jet justify my heightened anticipation? Well, yes and more. The sweet fragrance of rose interspersed with the woody and leathery aroma of the upholstery made me involuntarily close my eyes and take a calming breath. When I opened my eyes a few seconds later, there was visual stimuli all around. Polished wood and leather upholstery? Check. Personalized in-flight service? Check. Huge, comfy, plush seating? Check. Massive legroom and leg rests? Check. The feel of being inside a high-end luxury car or hotel room? Check.
After greetings and selfies inside the cockpit (a strict no-no on a commercial flight), we were welcomed with roses, wet towels and a flute of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005 champagne. Vividly coloured cushions and thin brown blankets sporting the red VistaJet logo sat on the beige-coloured leather seats, some of which could swivel 90 degrees on one side. Most could be opened into beds. Wi-Fi connectivity to national and international newspapers, the jet was fully connected.
The take-off was rapid, the runway being shorter than for commercial flights. As soon as we were airborne, I noticed a subtle change in cabin pressure. Inside a Global 6000, explained Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet—who flew with us—cabin pressure at 45,000ft is equivalent to 4,500ft outside compared with 7,500ft on commercial planes. This makes one feel less tired on this plane, he said.
There are other perks that come with flying at 45,000ft. There is less air traffic and the flight is above the vagaries of the weather, which means there is almost no turbulence. This, in turn, ensures better fuel efficiency. It was also quieter inside compared with most commercial planes. Special noise-reduction technique, Flohr told me with a smile.
However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the whole experience was a little too extravagant. Luxury is all very good but would buying hours on such jets make economic sense, I wondered. “Better than it makes to buy business jets,” Flohr quipped. “If you fly for 200-300 hours a year, it doesn’t make sense to buy a $55 million depreciating asset.”
VistaJet offers the same level of comfort for a fraction of the cost. “It is like checking into a presidential suite of a luxury hotel. You expect a certain level of quality. We are just trying to replicate the same principles in business aviation,” explained Flohr.
Our jet was flying at 25,000ft, almost half its maximum altitude. “So that we can see the Taj Mahal,” announced the captain. We had reached Agra in less than 30 minutes. From about 25,000ft above, the Taj looks like a white dot on the land’s circuit diagram.
Lunch was a grand three-course affair and the menu was curated by chef Vineet Manocha, who has more than 20 years’ experience working across star hotels as the Oberoi, Grand Hyatt and those of the Radisson Group. By the time dessert was served, the plane had begun its descent towards Delhi after flying over Jaipur and back. The landing was as smooth as the take-off. Cars were ready at the tarmac to take us to the arrival hall, outside which my Merc waited.
The two-hour-long flight was worth the anticipatory build-up and before I could get off cloud nine, I was dozing in the back of the car on the way home.
Pradip Kumar Saha travelled on Global 6000 as a guest of VistaJet.