Sky High: How billionaire kids party on private jets
Born out of a need from corporations to get around efficiently and in the utmost comfort, private jets have drastically evolved over the past decades from a business tool to a leisure asset. Recently, a younger demographic has gained access to business jets, bringing along a new way to fly, which includes throwing $4,000 in-flight, Mad Hatter tea parties and costume contests amongst other things.
Up 98% from the previous year, long-range private jets are being rented more often than ever before by families with children. According to a leading jet carrier, 1 in 4 private flights now has children onboard. Facilities for children were, however, until recently lacking, as these were mainly designed to let grown-ups relax and conduct business in the air.
Earlier this week, VistaJet, one of the largest private jet carriers, launched a programme aimed at entertaining children whilst they're on the air. Taking a different approach from typical digital systems, VistaJet lets kids plan tea parties themed after Alice in Wonderland, combat plots as if there were spies or even pretend they're movie stars with packages starting at $3,000 per flight.
"We noticed an increase in requests for flying with children" said Matteo Atti, Marketing VP at VistaJet. "Many high-net-worth families have turned to private aviation for their personal travels. Moreover, family trips are more and more often planned alongside business flights, to maximise personal time." The new programme, dubbed Adventures in the Sky, is yet another attempt to go after a new private jet sector.
Amongst the activities offered to children are decryption of secret, coded messages whilst in the air, mastery of film-making techniques with an onboard film crew, and a dress-up tea party. All of these involve a special team of entertainers that fly with the clients from point A to B and has fun with their children the whole time.
At the same time, the carrier developed a special series of children's meals to go together with the onboard fun and a parental requirement for healthy snacks. With only 10% of flights having a personal nanny onboard, VistaJet trained its hostesses to play and take care of children and teens throughout the flight at a specialised, British academy.
Stepping away from the alcohol and adult-focused facilities private jets used to gravitate around, these kid features shed a light on what the market now really needs. One large private jet broker said over 15% of its passengers so far in 2018 have been under 16 years old so far.
Some preparations had to be made though, the company tested 17 variants of colorful stickers to find out, which ones wouldn't ruin the $65,000 leather seats on Vista's private jets according to Bloomberg.
Typically an indicator of things to come, VistaJet has seen the number of flights on its 70-plane fleet increase 22% over the past year. In 2017, the company raised $150 million at a $2.5 billion valuation, putting its market cap near the likes of Air France and other European, commercial carriers. Since its founding, 13 years ago, the carrier flew over 250,000 passengers with flight minimums sitting at near $12,000.
Whereas the private jet market is just now paying attention to kids and family-orientated fun, it was much quicker to tap into the more obvious golden teens segment. With photos of college freshmen and high school seniors flying private, thanks to their high net worth families, flooding social networks, entire accounts have been set up to track them.
The first legendary one became Rich Kids of Instagram. A standard amongst high net worth descendants, with kids of billionaires competing for who'll get featured on there the most, such accounts grew off the back of a worldwide uptick in Instagram usage. Quickly similar accounts started gaining traction, making the Instagramability of a trip a real factor in the heads of teens and young adults that try to grow their follower count.
"People would be surprised as to how much time billionaire families spend obsessing about the number of followers and likes they get on Instagram and Facebook." said one high net worth fixer. "After money is out of the equation, perception becomes critical and that's where anxiety over social media starts kicking in. It becomes a real factor when even choosing what private jet to charter."
"Passengers take pictures inside the aircraft on nearly 90% of all private jet flights. Commercial wouldn't have the same effect." he added.
Whether or not VistaJet's strategy to bring costume parties on private jet flights will pay off in its revenue figures remains to be seen. It is, however, clear that in the current market, kids and teens have gained a stronger say when it comes to private jets than any ad an adult could ever see.