It has been four months since Sybaritic Single travelled aboard a commercial jet liner last time. With the frustrating travel restrictions in place, flying first class does not seem as much fun any longer. Who wants to be surrounded by people wearing masks, served by crew wearing full PPE and feel as if inside an ICU, about to depart this life.
Earlier this week, Lufthansa, Japan Airlines and Etihad Airways quietly removed first class inventory from their reservation systems. Air France retired its entire A380 fleet and therefore lost more than half of La Première seats. Emirates closed its first class lounges and locked onboard showers, got rid of cocktails, glossy magazines and free Wi-Fi. British Airways switched to boxed meals in First and contracted Sotheby’s to auction off millions of dollars worth of contemporary art, including Anish Kapoor and Bridget Riley, previously adorning its lounge interiors.
As a result, those who used to fly first class turned to private jets, which is a safer and a much more dignified way of travelling. With private aviation terminals exuding the calm and exquisite taste of luxury hotel lobbies, the “new normality” feels more inviting than ever before. Customisation is everything in this enclave of resilient luxury, from colorful Pierre Marcolini Melove Cakes on Christofle silver trays to Hermès-stocked shower suites and live pianists.
As for the private jet itself, what is important is that it has sufficient range to fly halfway around the planet without stopping. Its cabin must be spacious enough to comfortably accommodate Valium by Damien Hirst (previously, displayed in the BA First lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5) and the galleys secure to keep a full set of Baccarat Champagne flûtes safe. And, it goes without saying, the aircraft should ideally be owned rather than chartered by the hour.