Metrojet CEO Bjorn Naf gives an in­side look at own­ing and op­er­at­ing your own pri­vate jet

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TREND - By SI­MON WEB­STER

It’s the fraz­zled air trav­eler’s ul­ti­mate dream — you pull up to a pri­vate VIP ter­mi­nal in your limo, speed through pass­port con­trol and cus­toms, and within min­utes sink into the com­fort of your leather arm­chair, glass of cham­pagne in hand, as your be­spoke pri­vate jet pre­pares to take off. For the su­per­rich and top ex­ec­u­tives, it’s a re­al­ity; own­ing and fly­ing on a lux­u­ri­ous pri­vate plane has be­come the method of choice for es­cap­ing the in­creas­ingly madding crowds of mod­ern air­ports.

Why buy a plane when it’s sim­pler and cheaper just to char­ter one? The first ad­van­tage is be­ing able to choose a plane that’s the right fit for your travel needs. You can cus­tomize it to be­come an ex­ten­sion of your home — or of­fice — in the sky. Next, you get to pick your own flight crew, so you’ ll have fa­mil­iar faces on board wel­com­ing you each time you fly. And of course, your plane is there wait­ing for you any­time you want to use it.

The job of en­sur­ing you can max­i­mize your en­joy­ment and the use of your air­craft is one for the pro­fes­sion­als. That’s where pri­vate plane man­age­ment com­pa­nies come in, with their ex­per­tise in main­tain­ing air­craft, hir­ing flight crews and deal­ing with the pesky pa­per­work that needs to be filled out be­fore you can take to the sky. Even then, you re­main in the pilot’s seat, as it’s up to you to choose an op­er­a­tor with a proven man­age­ment and safety record.

Life­style choice

One of these plane man­age­ment com­pa­nies is Hong Kong-based Metrojet, part of the Kadoorie Group, which em­ploys 220 staff (in­clud­ing 60 full-time pi­lots) and man­ages a fleet of 26 air­craft. Metrojet CEO Bjorn Naf ex­plains that the high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als who own their own jets have in­ter­na­tional net­works. “They have prop­erty around the world, chil­dren at school over­seas, busi­nesses, friends, yachts, vine­yards and lux­ury as­sets over­seas.”

If pri­vate jets are a life­style choice for wealthy in­di­vid­u­als, they’re a busi­ness tool for com­pa­nies whose ex­ec­u­tives have to travel the world.

“It has a lux­u­ri­ous touch be­cause it costs a lot of money, but it’s used as a con­ve­nient, pri­vate ve­hi­cle for has­sle­free travel that saves time and in­creases pro­duc­tiv­ity,” says Näf. “You can do work, re­lax or sleep and, when you land, you don’t need to go to a ho­tel — you can just go straight to meet­ings.”

So how does it work? Buy­ing a pri­vate plane is sim­i­lar to choos­ing and fit­ting out your lux­ury yacht or cus­tomiz­ing your car, although a bit more com­plex. If your check­book can run to the mul­timil­lion-dol­lar price tag, there’s no short­age of choice, with Gulf­stream, Das­sault, Bom­bardier, Cessna and sev­eral other man­u­fac­tur­ers vy­ing for cus­tomers seek­ing the ul­ti­mate high­fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The key el­e­ment (apart from bud­get) is de­cid­ing what dis­tances you’ ll be fly­ing and how many peo­ple will be trav­el­ing, which will de­ter­mine the plane’s size and range.

Pas­sion­ate topic

Once the pur­chase agree­ment is signed, you de­cide on the in­te­rior — the color, wood­work, car­pets, leather, in-flight en­ter­tain­ment fea­tures and more — and choose the ex­ter­nal liv­ery.

“Of­ten it’s a very pas­sion­ate topic, be­cause then the wife wants to say some­thing, the kids want their say — it’s a com­bi­na­tion of opin­ions,” says Naf.

Some clients work with the de­signer for a year or even more. De­liv­ery can take 24 months or longer, so you also have to be pa­tient.

Once the plane is ready, a suit­able man­age­ment com­pany such as Metrojet will step in and take over op­er­a­tion of the air­craft for you. And then comes the fun part — fly­ing. The man­age­ment com­pany takes care of the crew and flight plans, but how quickly you can ac­tu­ally take off and land de­pends on the coun­try, with the US and Europe much more pri­vate-jet friendly than some coun­tries in Asia.

Light and pow­er­ful

Apart from the con­ve­nience, pri­vate jets can reach their des­ti­na­tions faster than com­mer­cial air­craft. Light and pow­er­ful, they can fly high above pas­sen­ger jets that are weighed down by peo­ple and cargo, soar­ing to more than 50,000 feet, where there is less drag. With fewer flight re­stric­tions than sched­uled air­craft, they can also take more di­rect routes, which can slice an hour off a flight from Hong Kong to New York.

Own­ers look­ing for a good deal can take ad­van­tage of the very com­pet­i­tive pri­vate-plane man­age­ment mar­ket, but Naf, who joined Metrojet in 2010, says that safety is a con­cern. Un­like com­mer­cial plane op­er­a­tors, there are few rules and reg­u­la­tions for pri­vate plane man­age­ment. “Peo­ple do what they want to do,” says Naf. “We have clear rules, clear reg­u­la­tions and high stan­dards. We pro­vide safety, se­cu­rity and re­li­a­bil­ity. We make sure your pilot flies safe, within the guide­lines.”

And do the own­ers put their planes to any un­usual uses? “Some­times peo­ple don’t fly, but the air­craft flies to load stuff they’ve or­dered in Aus­tralia, for ex­am­ple,” says Naf. “All the hand­bags, the shoes, the jew­elry comes from Aus­tralia into Hong Kong — and then the chauf­feur picks it up. The pilot flies alone, six hours down, eight hours back, to pick up bags. Maybe it’s an ex­clu­sive paint­ing. Maybe it’s a present from a friend. Maybe it’s di­a­monds, what­ever — we do it. It’s your air­craft!”

We pro­vide safety, se­cu­rity and re­li­a­bil­ity. We make sure your pilot flies safe, within the guide­lines.” Bjorn Naf, Metrojet CEO

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED BY METROJET

If pri­vate jets

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