I’d like you to imagine a world in which you roll up to the airport a mere 15 minutes before your flight, and in which you walk straight through a quiet and empty terminal without any thought to removing liquids and laptops and shoes and belts, boarding the plane with only a cheerful introduction from the pilot (with a handshake to boot). It sounds like a fantasy world, doesn’t it? But my friends, this world exists, but only, and this is an important only, for the other half.
This week, I took my first and likely only trip on a private jet. In a word it was brilliant, and such a stark contrast to commercial aviation. I would include a picture of the magical vessel, but realized that the picture I took might give away the company I work for. Suffice it to say, if this is how the other half lives, perhaps I should have worked about 1000 times harder in my career.
At first I thought I was super fortunate to step foot onto the corporate jet. As a relative peon in the corporate machine, I have no business being there. I am merely fortunate that my role occasionally requires attending meetings with senior executives, and sometimes those senior executives don’t have time to dilly dally with commercial air travel when those meetings occur in Minnesota. I now realize that there was nothing lucky about this experience because from this point forward I will be plagued by the memory of idyllic private jet travel whenever I suffer through commercial air travel’s laundry list of unpleasantries, such as:
–arriving at the airport 1-2 hours before my scheduled flight time, forced to kill time surrounded by screaming children, loud talkers and seat hoggers. Did you catch that earlier when I said you can arrive 15 minutes for a private jet? Even for an international flight.
–suffering the indignity of airport security with its rules and formalities and tiny liquids bottles stowed only in regulation-sized, clear plastic bags, and hand swabs and pat downs. You better bet you can carry liquids of any size on a private jet. Family-sized shampoo? Go for it!
–rushing to fit in one more visit to the bathroom before boarding time because you know that it’s not worth it to take a chance on the washrooms on board. Guys, do you know how big the washrooms are on private jets? I could turn around without hitting a wall or sink or toilet. I mean, I could’ve done a full lunge in there. And we had a real towel to dry our hands on. Contemplate that level of civility for a moment.
–jockeying for position during pre-boarding by corralling myself into the appropriate zone like some of sort of cruel caste system. How can I forget being personally greeted by the pilot as I waltzed onto the plane without line nor formality?
–needlessly turning my phone onto airplane mode, stowing my bags under my seat, or putting my laptop away during take off or landing. Imagine the liberation of having your purse casually tossed on the couch directly adjacent to your chair (yes, as in a standalone chair).
–snacking on nothing but a tiny bag of pretzels and some club soda instead of a custom-ordered meal eaten with actual cutlery and cloth napkin. Ugh.
–walking through multiple and seemingly endless wings of gates to find your way to customs only to be greeted by an agent I’ll tactfully describe as no fun, who will ask you a million questions in a way only customs agents can (i.e. the way that inspires total anxiety even when you have done nothing wrong). I didn’t even have to leave my cushy, on-board chair to clear customs. They came to me, and I didn’t have to answer a single, damn question. A simple glance at each passport sufficed. That’s the sign of power and wealth which, to be clear, I had only by association in that moment.
I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined commercial aviation for you, especially as we near the holiday season when chances are you, like me, will be hopping aboard a plane with the masses, crammed into a middle seat between a crying baby and chatty Cathy. It wasn’t my intention. I just needed to open your eyes to a world of air travel beyond what you and I are likely to experience and, yes, it is every bit as incredible as it sounds.