How Elite Air Services Can Transform Executive Travel

With pandemic-era restrictions lifted and most organizations back to "business as usual," C-suite executives have resumed regular travel schedules. This presents an opportunity for travel decision-makers to reevaluate their corporate travel programs and make considerations for VIP travel.

Particularly when it comes to elite air service, the industry has evolved significantly in the past few years, influenced by a renewed push towards sustainability and economics of scale. Elite air service may encompass private charters, jet cards, first class seats, private fleet access, and other special programs that cater to C-suite travelers. While this may sound expensive or impractical, elite air travel programs can provide boutique service without breaking the budget.

Ultimately, a successful VIP travel program should balance flexibility, cost, and experience to meet the high expectations and needs of C-suite travelers as well as vital members of upper management.

Corporate Jets—A Less Sustainable Option

As businesses continue to tighten the budget, eliminate waste, and increase profit margins, elite air services must also be examined in terms of their overall contribution to the bottom-line. For larger companies with a global footprint, a question that often comes up is: “Are corporate-owned jets a worthwhile investment?” While the answer to this question varies depending on the unique needs of the organization, corporate jets are less sustainable from both a financial and environmental perspective.

Maintaining a corporate jet takes significant investment—you pay not only for the asset itself, but also for its continued maintenance, storage, and crew costs. According to a recent report, a new jet can cost anywhere between $3 and $90 million up front. Businesses can then expect to pay an additional $700,000 to $4 million per year to maintain depending on the size and features of the craft. Even if this pencils out for your current travel program, unpredictable factors like inflation and fluctuations in the marketplace can cause unexpected costs to quickly tally up.

Beyond financial ramifications, there is also the added challenge of the impact on the environment. Almost all methods of business travel create some form of CO2 emissions, which is why we recommend implementing a carbon offsetting platform like Direct ATPI Halo. However, private jets present a larger traveler footprint to offset, emitting at least 10 times more pollutants than commercial planes per passenger.

When evaluating both financially and environmentally conscious options, chartering a plane offers benefits over corporate jet ownership. Companies that expect to use a private jet less than 200 to 300 hours a year will see cost savings from utilizing a charter plane instead. Additionally, charter planes are now following the lead of major air carriers to roll out sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which is expected to reduce aviation carbon emissions by 80-85% once it’s more affordable and widely available.

Explore Airline Travel Programs

The modern era of travel delivers a wide range of elite air services beyond first class seats due to new technology and a demand for a variety of purchasing options. Several major carriers and private companies have launched unique products and boutique services that cater to executives, special groups, and sports teams.

Some major airlines offer “pay-by-the-seat-plans” for as little as $125 per seat, allowing your C-suite travelers to fly in comfort while traveling in and out of less congested airports with expedited services. One of the greatest advantages is access to a private plane without a long-term commitment—travel managers can simply reserve a flight when an important date comes up without obligation beyond the purchased flight.

There are also programs that can be tailored based on your group size. One efficient option is “Wheels-Up" from Delta Airlines for groups of 14 or less. This special program gives your VIP travelers access to one of the largest commercial fleets along with exclusive rewards and benefits. This unique luxury air purchase method can often be the cheaper route (as opposed to the cost of a chartered jet, which ranges from $2k-$9k per hour). For groups of 10 or more travelers, the United Airlines Groups & Meetings Program provides discounted fares and a group coordinator during priority check-in. This is a great option for companies that need to send small groups of vital team members to events such as tradeshows, conferences, or national sales meetings.

Get Elite Service

Of course, getting there is only half of the journey. For a true VIP experience, it is important to holistically consider the services required from start to finish.

At Direct Travel, our experts are here to help meet the needs of your executive travelers and assist with purchasing decisions that adhere to both your fiscal and environmental goals. We provide concierge-level service and a dedicated team created to assist C-suite executives. Offerings include limo/town car reservations, spouse/partner travel arrangements, 24/7 after hours servicing, meal and activity coordination, and detailed reviews of your travelers’ personal travel profiles and preferred requirements.

If you’re ready to elevate your offerings for executive travelers without sacrificing savings or comfort, connect with our team to see how we can take your travel program to the next level.