Move over, Four Seasons. Crystal is partnering with Peninsula Hotels to launch its AirCruises Aug. 31 next year. The inaugural air voyage aboard Crystal’s own Boeing 777-200 will circle the globe visiting each of the Hong Kong-based hotel group’s 10 properties, starting in New York with stops in Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Bangkok and Paris, before returning to the Big Apple on Sept. 26. Fare is $159,000 per person.
Private jet tours have been a hot category of late. Abercrombie & Kent recently announced it was partnering with The New York Times for a trip using a chartered Boeing 757 with approximately 50 seats that convert to flat beds. Four Seasons has been bullish on its own offering, using a similarly outfitted single-aisle 757, using its hotels as stopping off points. Presidential Private Jet Vacations has been taking a similar approach, however, it offers customers the opportunity to take over the entire plane for their trips, usually 10-12 seat chartered long-range Gulfstream and Bombarider private jets.
Crystal in its cases owns the 777, and brings a new dynamic in that it is a widebody plane, and it will include several lounge and dining areas, and an extensive wine cellar in the sky, as well as seats that convert to fully flat beds as others have.
Edie Rodriguez, President and CEO of Crystal predicts the debut will be fully sold. She points to her cruise line’s recently completed 32-day Northwest Passage cruise that sold out to its past customers within hours of putting it on sale. That success spurred the line to do it again, and she believes this first trip with Peninsula may be the start of future collaborations. Simon Yip, Peninsula’s head of sales said they will be marketing the journey to their customers as well.
In the case of this trip, four of the 84 seats on the 777 won’t be sold but will be used by Peninsula executives and concierges who will rotate on each leg. For example, flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo, executives from the Japanese locale will be aboard to help passengers customize their trips.
While the concept of the private jet tour may seem similar to offerings by A&K, Four Seasons, Travcoa, TCS World Travel and others, Rodriguez says, in addition to using a larger plane, the offerings are different. She told a media gathering at The Peninsula New York that in each destination, there will be four different tracks of sightseeing aligned along adventure, personal connections to locals, cultural discoveries and gastronomy. On the launch voyage, there are 91 different experiences that can be combined in 331 different ways. All are included in the price, however, for those of you who want to do your own thing, there is the ability to have something completely bespoke at an additional cost.
Rodriguez says the approach means that while there are 80 people traveling together, most of the time they will be split into small groups of 8-12, although there will also be events and evenings where most guests will likely attend, such as a private dinner at the Great Wall during the Beijing stop. For the Peninsula journey, Yip says the company’s IT folks have designed an electronic key that will work at all of its hotels, such guests won’t have to check in at every stop, but will go right to their hotel rooms.
Crystal today only released five additional itineraries, with the second being another round-the-world trip, this departing Oct. 21 from Los Angeles and visiting Easter Island, Uluru, Ho Chi Minh City, Lhasa, Jaipur, Mauritius, Victoria Falls and Prague.
The next published journey isn’t until June 1, 2018, a 16-day trip from San Francisco visiting wine country in Mendoza, Santiago, Cape Town, Tuscany, Bordeaux and Champagne. Rodriguez says when the 777 isn’t being used for the fixed trips (It’s operated by Comlux Aruba NV), it will be available for on-demand charter. Already, several people have contacted Crystal asking about private trips using the 777, but for their own dedicated group.
The new product line could mean big business for Crystal. Rodriguez expects the journeys will all sell out. Based on the rate for the initial voyage, back of the envelope math shows Crystal might generate over $100 million in annual revenue, however, she declined to comment on financial details. The Crystal AirCruises journeys will go on sale Nov. 1.