A year ago to the day I wrote about Four Seasons introducing a 757 private jet.
The plane is equipped with 52 fully flat seats, and the intent is that the 757 is used for some of their “Four Seasons around the world itineraries,” whereby the jet flies a group of a few dozen people around the world between Four Seasons properties. It’s super innovative, and the first time a hotel brand has outright introduced a private jet as part of a group excursion.
This morning Bloomberg published a story entitled “Exclusive Look Inside The Four Seasons’ New Private Jet.”
Truth be told I expected I’d be super jealous and come away thinking “damn, I wish I could take one of these trips.” But the reality is quite the opposite, at least for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this is hands down the sexiest 757 in the world, both from the outside and inside. And this also looks like a great onboard experience… for 757 business class.
I figured I’d share a few highlights of the article:
There are, at minimum, 21 hotel-trained crew and staff on board each Four Seasons flight, including three pilots, two engineers, a “journey manager” (travel coordinator), a concierge, and an executive chef. A physician and a photographer also come along, when adventurous itineraries—such as diving the Maldives’ coral reefs or game watching in the Serengeti—require it.
21 crew on a 757? Am I the only one that thinks that sounds sort of unnecessary and almost takes away from the privacy of such an experience?
On the upscale à la carte menu, Petrossian caviar and Dom Pérignon champagne are anytime staples. But surprise dishes rotate, depending on your itinerary. Just returning from Kona, Hawaii? You might have fresh lobster salad sprinkled with macadamia nuts. Just made friends with elephants in Thailand? A dark chocolate elephant is on board waiting to greet you. It’s “airplane food” as much as typical in-flight snacks are smoked salmon canapés, fresh fruit kebabs with passion fruit sauce, or pristine petit fours.
The food and drinks do sound fantastic, though not really better than what you’d get in international first class on a top carrier.
Yet somewhat disappointingly, there is no partition or privacy to protect you from unwanted chit-chat—or snoring from the robber baron next door. With two seats on each side of the aisle, these are not the enclosed enclaves of Air France’s La Premiere class or Etihad’s on-board bedrooms.
In fact, the ethos here is more communal in general. There may not be purpose-made social areas, such as an A-380 bar/lounge, but with three pilots on board, one is always free to chat with guests, as they are with each other. Flying with Four Seasons is a choice to meet, socialize, and share adventures with new people.
“We didn’t sleep much on the flights, because we were always having much too much fun drinking champagne and giving our neighbors nicknames,” said passenger Davidson. An interior designer from Calgary, she booked the trip to celebrate her 55th birthday and wound up forging new friendships. “We loved our space and all of the people who were surrounding us.”
It’s no surprise that seats are in a 2-2 configuration, given that we’re talking about a 757 here. So by 2015, the lack of direct aisle access from every seat almost makes this a sub-par hard product. Then again, the experience seems focused around being social, and since none of the flights are especially long, that’s not really a big problem.
When you take your seat, you’ll find serious stash: Bvlgari toiletry kit, cashmere blanket, Bose noise-canceling headphones, and a custom-made leather travel journal by Moleskin with matching ballpoint pen. Each guest also receives an iPad Air 2 in advance of the trip, on which you can preload music and movies as a personalized entertainment system. They’re all yours to keep.
Best part: There’s free Wi-Fi—unlike the actual hotel properties you’ll sleep at. High-speed isn’t guaranteed, but guests can visit any website and send e-mails; they just can’t stream video content while on board to ensure a good connection. (Instead, a select library of both new and contemporary films and TV shows is available to download.) Taking the tech-forward cue from newer planes, the in-flight entertainment here is as good as any.
The kits are small, though—even if reportedly costing $100 each—and provided twice, once at the beginning and then halfway through the journey, instead of on each leg. Run out of dental floss? An additional supply is always available. Just don’t leave your own supplies at home.
The amenities do sound quite good. Though the valuation of the Bvlgari kits and the fact that you only get two per trip sound a bit off.
Unlike the epic four-star commodes you can expect on the ground, the four bathrooms on board are coach-class tiny. As bright and clean, custom-designed, and suffused with Bvlgari green tea air freshener they may be, there was no wow moment here. Also a tick in the “con” column: paper towels instead of cloth. Not a big deal in the grand scheme, sure, but it’s the small details that really send luxury over the top.
I do hate those 757 bathrooms. Given how many modifications they supposedly made to the plane, I’m surprised they couldn’t improve them more.
Why I’m surprised the Four Seasons jet “works”
Don’t get me wrong, this does sound like a great experience. It basically sounds like La Compagnie if they decided to go after the opposite end of the business class market.
I’d still be very surprised if this concept works long term. It’s innovative, but I tend to think the greatest thing about high end travel is flexibility and the ability to customize your journey as much as you’d like. If you’re dropping $100K+ per person on a trip, don’t you want the ability to go where you want when you want for as long as you want, rather than being tied down to a specific itinerary?
I guess this works for some people precisely because of how structured the trip is. You don’t have to make any decisions, you just show up and get to see some amazing places — everything else is taken care of
But personally I’d be surprised if this business model works long term or is expanded. I’m guessing some high end travelers are trying it once out of curiosity, but long term do you really want to drop that kind of cash on such a “rigid” trip, when you could ultimately fly better airline products and have a more customized experience for less?
(Tip of the hat to Michael)