In many ways, a private plane is the peak of luxury. There’s no waiting at airport security, no contending with a domino effect of delays. Your jet goes where you want, when you want, and only those you want aboard get to come along.
But while the Jaggers of the world may gas up their jets for the prestige, for many businesspeople the decision to fly private is one of pure practicality. If a factory is half a state away from a commercial airport, sometimes the only way to get there without sacrificing a whole day to layovers and transfers is to chart your own course. And especially in the days before Google Hangouts, if you wanted to conduct business face-to-face, you had to bring yourself to the customer. Better yet: Invite the customer into a private boardroom in the sky, where you can’t be interrupted, or overheard.
A corporate jet is typically a vessel for work, not play — instead of cocktail shakers and Versace cushions, desks and Dictaphones are crammed into a space not much bigger than a generous cubicle. Long before in-flight Wi-Fi, corporate planes were designed for connectivity (see the woman using a built-in radiotelephone in 1930). And when you can’t step out for coffee or close your office door, you are left with little choice but to get to work: In a 2018 survey by the National Business Aviation Association, 66 percent of business travelers reported being more productive on the company plane than at their desks.
These days, with plane shares and jet cards, you may not even need to own your own plane outright to reap the benefits of the private jet experience. NetJets, the largest private jet operator in the United States, flies more than 500 flights per day.
A plane increases one’s most valuable asset: time. Bob Markowski, the owner of Exec Air, a refueling stop in Grand Island, Neb., took that saying about the currency of minutes literally. In 1963, he started offering a stopwatch service guarantee: If his crew failed to turn around a plane in under 15 minutes, he would fork over $100. (By 1967, he told The Times, he had had to pay up only eight times.)
And in those few minutes, Bob’s wife, Ann, laid on the Midwestern V.I.P. treatment: trays of homemade cookies for the larger planes, goody bags for the smaller ones. She even rolled out a red carpet.
For a brief moment, a middle manager can feel like a rock star. Then it’s back to the office in the sky. At 41,000 feetat least it has a nice view.