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