Private jet firm streamlines travel

LONDON -- What client -- or agent, for that matter -- stuck in a long airport security line, tarmac traffic or a cramped economy cabin wouldn't give an arm and a leg to be whisked away to a private jet, departing where they wanted, when they wanted?

Although that prospect is a pipe dream for most, new British luxury operator Jeffersons is looking to sell U.S. travel agents and high-end clients on commissionable European short breaks pairing private jet transportation with luxury hotel stays.

"Our product is built around the growing number of travelers who resent the long check-in lines and waiting times involved with scheduled flights and who want improved service from what's on offer at the moment," said Mike Bevens, sales and marketing director.

"There's not much that's genuinely new in the travel product market," he added. "This fits things so well at the moment, in terms of convenience and a sense of security."

The lowdown ...

Launched last October in the U.K. and just now entering the U.S. market, Jeffersons operates a chartered fleet of four- to eight-seat private jets from London to -- or between -- most airports in Europe.

Clients set their own travel times, check baggage at their planes and enjoy immigration and customs preclearance.

The company also publishes a Jeffersons Private Jet Holidays brochure -- recently mailed to Virtuoso agencies in the States -- of 30 prepackaged, two-night air-and-hotel plans across western Europe.

Catalog prices start at about $3,995 per person, based on four people traveling together and staying at the Montalembert Hotel in Paris; packages include air by private jet; champagne and snacks en route; limousine or helicopter transfers; suite or equivalent accommodations; and continental breakfasts or meals.

Brochure prices top out at about $30,350 per person for a two-person, seven-night stay at the Hotel Cala di Volpe in Sardinia, Italy.

Classified in categories such as "tranquil," "chic" and "glowing," destinations include cities such as Paris; Florence, Italy; Dublin, Ireland; Barcelona, Spain; and Berlin, and resorts in Sardinia and Portofino, Italy; and on the Cote d'Azur and in Saint-Tropez in France.

Although Jeffersons mainly sells direct to consumers in Britain, it views travel agents as the conduit to the high-end market in the U.S.

The company normally pays 5% on prepackaged breaks, said Bevens, "but from the U.S. agency point of view, most bookings will be tailor-made, so we'll build whatever commission would be appropriate."

Jeffersons can craft air-and-hotel vacations to any destination in Europe, including Russia; the company envisions potential U.S. clients connecting from business-class or Concorde flights at major international airports across the Continent.

"This brochure just whets the appetite, and many clients tailor the programs they want," said Bevens. "In fact, our first clients went to Austria for skiing -- and we don't even feature ski resorts in our brochure."

Jeffersons also offers complete concierge services and can tack add-on services, reservations and excursions -- perks it views as essential for U.S. vacationers -- onto its packaged or custom-built luxury vacations.

"If clients want a yacht for the day, a golf professional to take them out on the greens, or just a restaurant reservation, it's no problem," said Bevens.

... On the high end

Travel is aboard two-engine Citation and Learjet planes piloted by a crew of two; cabin staff can be hired at extra cost. Champagne, soft drinks and a snack hamper are offered on board, and some jets feature DVD entertainment systems.

Bevens said Jeffersons' business-jet holiday packages differ from competing products in that clients don't have to share a plane with strangers.

The company's product "is for two to six people who want to travel in their own little cocoon," he added.

"It's built around a convenience and style that flows through the whole vacation," Bevens said. "That's vitally important if you're dealing with clients who are cash-rich but time-poor; they want the best -- but as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Those concerns are exactly what led managing director Robin Fawcett, former owner of successful U.K. tour operator Kirker Holidays, to found Jeffersons in the first place -- after a year of careful market research and product development.

"He happened to travel on a low-cost airline one day, had a lot of problems and hassles, and thought there had to be a better way to travel, particularly at the top end of the market," explained Bevens, formerly of top-end operator Abercrombie & Kent.

For more information, call (011) 44-870 850-8181, send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit

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