Crystal's decision to back out of the air tour business 80
days before the first scheduled departure did not shock luxury retailers.
Several travel agents said there was interest in Crystal
AirCruises from their clients but no firm bookings.
"We had some clients who were kicking the tires and had
done some deep dives but were not committed to it," said Paul Largay,
co-owner and CEO of Largay Travel in Waterbury, Conn. He said he wasn't
surprised that some things that Crystal has announced since it was acquired by
Genting in 2015 haven't panned out.
"When you take a two-ship company and you expand as
broadly and as deeply as Crystal has, not everything is going to go according
to schedule," Largay said.
Crystal president and CEO Edie Rodriguez said the change was
made because Crystal has had numerous requests for custom charters.
In the Hot Seat
Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez discussed switching its $159K air tours to custom charter flights. Read More
"We were getting a lot of requests from groups that
wanted to do their own thing," Rodriguez said. "Eighty-four seats is
42 couples, and the world is getting wealthier. They want to curate their own
Charlene Fialla, president of the luxury cruises and tours
division of Alice Travel in Fairfield, N.J., said the fixed dates of the tours
that Crystal AirCruises had announced didn't always fit with her clients' busy
"I don't think the public realized that it's not
something you can fly from Point A to Point B on the day you want to do it."
Fialla said. "You really are looking for that qualified client who's looking
only to go for a Peninsula hotel stay (Peninsula was to be Crystal's exclusive
hotel partner) and go for 'x' amount of time. And the dates are firm, and there
are a good amount of dates."
Also, given the high price, the tours could really only be
offered to Crystal guests who would book a penthouse or luxury suite, Fialla
said, adding, "It's still a very, very small number of people who can
While Crystal was new to air tours, several other companies
have made an established business of it, including TCS World Travel, Four
Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Abercrombie & Kent.
Rodriguez said Crystal had anticipated the competition and
felt it had sufficiently differentiated its offering by featuring 84 lie-flat
seats on a Boeing 777 that could fly more than 16 hours nonstop.
"We felt we were doing it differently and better than
that competition, respectfully," Rodriguez said.
Largay said that some of the other luxury lifestyle products
that Crystal has created since Genting bought the company are hugely
"One of my greatest challenges with Crystal right now
is availability," he said, especially on the mega-yacht Crystal Esprit and
the river cruise ship Crystal Mozart.
"A lot of the other things that are perhaps closer to
the core competency of what they've done before will, I think, be equally
successful," Largay said.