It was a Thursday morning and I walked the short distance from my hotel to Denham airfield in Buckinghamshire. Opposite the appropriately named Biggles cafe is the Jetfly lounge where I met my fellow co-passengers just before 8am for a private flight to Frankfurt. By 8.20am we were up in the air, looking down on the M25 and able to pick out various iconic London landmarks such as the Millennium Dome and the Shard in the distance.
This is the beauty of private air travel. No queueing, no passport check (I had submitted a scan of my passport in advance), no body scan, no baggage check, no waiting around… or, to put it more simply, no hassle. Forget the glass of Champagne, the comfortable seat, the extra legroom… without doubt the main perk that comes with flying privately is the time you save and the convenience of the whole ‘airport’ experience.
Jetfly do have a lounge at Denham but this is rarely used with most owners using their service simply driving straight to the plane and boarding.
To date Jetfly have a fleet of 19 Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, a single-engine turboprop plane and each with typically seven co-owners, and they are buying approximately two of these planes each year to meet growing demand. This is the biggest aircraft you’ll see at Denham; it is a plane that oozes character and comfort but its key advantage is that it can land on short runways because it is able to fly at very low speeds. This holds huge appeal because it means you can land in far more locations than many other modes of private aviation, enabling passengers to land nearer their final destination. Using smaller airports and airfields can also be much more competitive – landing at Denham costs just £60, for instance, whereas just 30 miles away at Farnborough Airport the fee is closer to £700.
Returning to the Pilatus PC-12… this jet can hold a total of 10 people (pilot, co-pilot and 8 passengers), although the one we travelled in was configured to hold just 6 passengers with two seats facing backwards to make the whole experience a little more sociable.
On board, after a brief safety announcement from the co-pilot and an equally short take-off, we were presented with a beautiful tray of fresh fruit and offered a newspaper for the journey. The journey time to Frankfurt from Denham on a Pilatus PC-12 is 1 hour 45 minutes. With the new Pilatus PC-24, which Jetfly will be flying from 2017, that time will be closer to an hour.
So, before we knew it, we were making our descent into Frankfurt with the rather grey shades of London substituted by the much bluer skies of Frankfurt.
Our landing at Frankfurt Egelsbach Airport was a very comfortable one thanks to the skills of our ever-smiling German pilot and his French co-pilot.
I travelled with just onesmall hand luggage item for this trip but, for those with cases, luggage was retrieved from the rear of the plane. This also served as a good opportunity to get a side-view of the inside of the aircraft.
Our arrival was just as hassle-free as our departure, with airport staff meeting us off the plane to check our passports and a vehicle driving onto the runway and to the steps of the plane to take us to our first stop – a vineyard on the outskirts of Frankfurt.
For the return to Denham the next day, I was utterly spoilt - it happened to my birthday and a bottle of fizz had very kindly been secretly arranged… as if flying with Jetfly wasn’t already luxurious enough!
Flying with Jetfly had indeed been a pleasure and the Pilatus PC-12 was very comfortable indeed. It should be stressed that this isn’t a plane you can charter – you have to own or co-own one so that is quite a unique selling point and one that opens up a whole myriad of opportunities. Jetfly are therefore not a one-stop solution for most owners but instead an additional option for them, giving passengers the flexibility that they can’t get from many private jet operators.