Here are all the options travelers have when flying between New York and the Massachusetts Islands this summer.
Three major airlines serve Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket from New York’s three area airports and Westchester County Airport north of the city. Flying commercial is often the least expensive option, especially with a mix of carriers on the routes.
JetBlue Airways offers the greatest variety of service to the islands with flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Westchester County Airport. Flights use JetBlue’s Embraer E190 aircraft, and one-way fares can be as low as $75.
Delta Air Lines also offers flights from JFK and LaGuardia to both islands on regional jets. One-way fares are as low as $85, and first class is offered for a premium on some days.
United Airlines is offering non-stop flights only between Newark and Nantucket. It also uses regional jets, and schedules show United will deploy its swankiest of them all, the Bombardier CRJ550, with 10 first class seats, 20 “Economy Plus” extra-legroom seats, and 20 standard economy seats.
Elite Airways is the newest carrier to offer service between New York and Massachusetts, with flights from Westchester to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard starting Memorial Day weekend. The carrier is set to use Bombardier regional jets on the routes with fares starting as low as $129.
The airline also boasts complimentary amenities like a free checked bag, advanced seat assignments, and onboard snacks and drinks.
One of America’s largest independent regional airlines, Cape Air, offers a semi-private experience between New York and the New England coast.
Five routes are offered from New York – three from Westchester and two from JFK. Both airports offer flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, with service to Provincetown, Massachusetts also available from Westchester. Service differs depending on the departure airport.
Flights to and from Westchester use a private terminal away from the airport’s main commercial terminal. At JFK, flights use Terminal 5, which JetBlue also uses.
Cape Air flights between New York and Massachusetts use Cessna 402 twin-engine piston aircraft with no WiFi or in-flight entertainment, and often no co-pilot. It’s truly a back-to-basics experience but does the trick on short flights. Passengers can also request to sit in the cockpit if there’s no co-pilot.
But even with the basic aircraft and a single pilot, one-way fares for the summer often run more than $200.
Helicopter company Blade offers weekender flights between Westchester and the Massachusetts Islands using Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft starting May 27. Flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are available and use private terminals on both ends of the journey.
One-way fares start at $725 plus tax and do not require a membership.
Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation firm, is resuming its Nantucket shuttle from Westchester starting Memorial Day weekend. Travelers can purchase seats on its Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprop aircraft for $795, with flights departing on Fridays at 5 p.m. and returning on Sundays at 5 p.m.
Flights use private terminals at both ends of the journey, so flyers can skip the security checkpoint. One carry-on bag, or a set of golf clubs, is permitted.
However, the shuttle is only available to Wheels Up members. There are three tiers of annual memberships, with the most basic “connect membership” costing $2,495 per year and a one-time initiation fee of $2,995.
Private aviation firm Tradewind Aviation is also resuming shuttle services between Westchester and Massachusetts.
The company uses single-engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprop aircraft with luxurious interiors that feature executive-style leather seats. Tradewind flights use private terminals on both ends of the journey.
Prices and flight times vary day to day, but one-way fares are often between $400 and $1,000.
Dassault Aviation is finally catching up to its competitors.
The French aircraft manufacturer just unveiled the latest in its line of Falcon business jets, including its $75 million flagship, the Falcon 10X.
The largest and widest business aircraft that Dassault has ever produced, the Falcon 10X aims to be a long-range leader after the company fell behind competitors Bombardier and Gulfstream in the ultra-long-range category.
An aircraft intended to fly for more than 15 hours needs to be, at the very least, comfortable. At nine feet and one inch, the Falcon 10X’s cabin is the widest of any of the ultra-long-range business jets from Dassault, Gulfstream, and Bombardier.
Rival aircraft top out at eight feet and two inches, the width of the Gulfstream G700.
The Falcon 10X also boasts the tallest cabin among its competitors with a height of six feet and eight inches.
The cabin can be divided into four areas, each with unique touches. “Comfort and productivity” were guiding principles in designing the living areas, Carlos Brana, Dassault’s executive vice president for civil aviation, told Insider.
A staple on any wide-cabin private jet, the Falcon 10X also features a dining and conference area that can be used for meals or meetings.
Even the galley kitchen is used as a living area, with the crew rest area doubling as a seat. Unlike other private jets, two windows illuminate the kitchen with natural light and open the space that’s traditionally reserved as a work area for cabin attendants.
Aircraft owners can also opt for another seat in the bedroom to act as an office or a private setting for meals. “We created an apartment, a penthouse in the sky,” Agnès Gervais, Dassault’s head of industrial design, said.
Fresh, filtered air will also be flowing through the cabin. “Our goal is to make sure that when [passengers] exit the airplane, they are fresh, rested, relaxed, and they can go to the next stage of their trip,” Brana said.
Four high-definition displays give pilots information and are flanked by flight computers. Honeywell Aerospace also provided a lot of safety features including synthetic vision, airport moving maps, and a runway overrun awareness system.
Dassault was also able to use technology found on its Rafale fighter jet aircraft in the Falcon 10X.
Engine thrust is controlled by a single lever, despite the aircraft having two engines, just like on the Rafale
And pilots have heads-up displays that can help navigate through poor weather.
Side-stick controls have replaced standard control yokes, and the Falcon 10X also features digital fly-by-wire controls to improve safety. A button on each side of the cockpit can steady the plane in the event of unusual turbulence.
Both cockpit seats are also designed to lay fully flat to form a bed and eventually act as a crew rest area for one of the pilots.
That’s not allowed just yet as two pilots have to be flying at all times, but increased automation is leading to fewer pilots being needed in the cockpit in the future.
“Our objective is to drastically reduce workload while still be able to adapt to the challenges of air traffic control,” Philippe Duchateau, Dassault’s chief test pilot, said.
Powering the Falcon 10X are two Rolls-Royce Perl 10X engines producing more than 18,000 pounds of thrust each and offering a top speed of Mach .925.
It’s the first time that Dassault has called upon Rolls-Royce for Falcon jet aircraft engine. “We strongly believe that Rolls-Royce has the right competencies, the right technology in order to design this engine to be fitted for us,” Éric Trappier, Dassault’s chief executive officer, said.
Every city pair in the world is accessible with just one stop and non-stop city pairs include long flights like New York-Johannesburg, South Africa; Paris, France-Santiago, Chile; and Hong Kong-Atlanta, meaning fewer stops for travelers.
Las Vegas is home to one of American Express’ 14 Centurion Lounges, widely considered to be the gold standard of airport lounges because of their high-end offerings including complimentary and meticulous crafted food items and alcoholic beverages.
The lounge is located in the airport’s D gate concourse, home to United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, among others.
Passenger on any airline can access the lounge, however, if they have the American Express Platinum or Centurion card. American Express Delta Skymiles Reserve cardholders can also use the lounge when flying Delta or a Delta-marketed flight.
I had a six-hour layover in the airport so I headed straight to the lounge. Departing passengers are normally only allowed to enter within three hours of their flight but connecting passengers are exempt from that rule.
Here’s what it was like inside the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.
I checked into the lounge using digital check-in via the American Express mobile application and was given a QR code to show the agent. I only had to show my boarding pass and identification as the agent saw my check-in on her end.
Within seconds, I was inside one of the most exclusive clubs in Las Vegas. Greeting me was this portrait of a dog resting on an American Express trunk accompanying two black armchairs, a staple of the Centurion Lounge that can be found in every location.
The lounge was moderately crowded and employees, as a result, were escorting guests to particular seats to help ensure distancing.
I was asked if I wanted to sit in one of the main seating areas….
Or the dining area. I chose the former to take advantage of the more comfortable seating.
I was traveling alone so I was given one of these cushioned cubbies, complete with my own table.
Capacity in the lounge is limited due to the pandemic so certain seating areas are blocked.
Along the wall where I was sitting, for example, every other cubby was blocked.
It created an extra degree of privacy and meant I had more room to store my bags, and another table to hold my laptop while I ate lunch.
Once I got settled, I headed over to the buffet to get something to eat. These lounges are known for having good eats with menus crafted from local chefs. Chef Kim Canteenwalla had designed this menu.
The offering was quite extensive and better than what I’d seen in competing airline lounges even before the pandemic. Light options included a chopped bacon, lettuce, and tomato salad…
Butternut squash soup…
And mango cranberry couscous.
Hot items included kale pesto pasta…
And chimichurri fingerling potatoes.
And for desert, peach cobbler was on offer.
Healthier options included fruits like apples, pears, and bananas. Cookies and honey mustard pretzels were also on offer but not many snacks were available other than that.
All in all, it was some of the best airport food I’ve ever had. Every item was bursting with flavor and made for a great meal.
And of course, the full bar is another big selling feature of the lounge as drinks are complimentary.
The main bar was closed but this makeshift bar still did the trick. Most common cocktails can be ordered at the bar but American Express’ in-house mixologist, Jim Meehan, also crafts specialty drinks for each location.
One such drink was the “air mail,” a sparkling wine drink with rum, honey syrup, and lime juice.
Plexiglass partitions were also erected at the bar for social distancing.
After having lunch, I walked around the more than 13,000 square foot space. American Express just recently renovated the lounge and it showed.
The decor was very modern and very Las Vegas. It made me feel like I was in the heart of the Strip despite only being at the airport.
Large sections of the lounge were blocked off but other sections included a sprawling conference table and more private seating.
These lounges often lend themselves well to social distancing with high-walled chairs since privacy is a huge draw for discerning travelers.
There are even private phone rooms that are enclosed for maximum privacy.
I also discovered somewhat of a hidden room in the back of the lounge.
It didn’t have any windows but was well-lit and has its own television.
The lounge’s family room was, however, off-limits due to the pandemic.
Roped-off areas were opened once the lounge was sufficiently crowded. It wasn’t uncommon before the pandemic to see these lounges filled to the brim.
Departure information screens could also be found throughout the lounge so passengers could stay up to date on the status of their next flight.
Aviation enthusiasts will enjoy one of the seating areas near the window as a variety of aircraft can be spotted.
Hot beverages were also available with multi-beverage coffee machines capable of making anything from a standard cup of coffee to espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate, and anything in between.
A selection of teas was also available with hot water.
Visiting this lounge made my six-hour layover go by in what felt like an instant.
The only downside is that it closes at 3 p.m., at which point the only other lounge available to passengers in the terminal is The Club LAS.
But for the few hours I got to spend in the lounge, I can say that it will become a staple on my future visits to Las Vegas.
The renovations and superior offering make it a jewel in the Centurion Lounge network.
PS opened in 2017 as the Private Suite, a one-of-a-kind private terminal at one of the country’s busiest airports. Like most travel and hospitality companies, business was down at the pandemic’s peak in 2020 as would-be travelers stayed at home amid lockdowns.
But just over one full year since lockdowns began, PS is reporting a resurgence in new memberships from flyers getting ready to travel.
Amina Belouizdad, PS’ co-chief executive officer, told Insider that memberships have surged and the company has signed on more new members than it had before the pandemic. Annual membership costs $4,500 but the wealthy are scooping them up, even if they don’t have upcoming travel planned.
“I think people want to have peace of mind that they have access to this,” Belouizdad said. “It’s a signal of customer sentiment, is what it is. People are saying, ‘I’m expecting to travel over the next year, I want to make sure me and my family can do it safely.'”
And with that in mind, PS is embarking on a redesign for its Los Angeles flagship terminal to welcome back travelers with a new look. I stopped by PS on a recent layover in Los Angeles, here’s what it was like.
The major appeal of PS is avoiding the commercial terminal at LAX entirely, and that’s only increased during the pandemic. Memberships are up as the wealthy want guaranteed access, even if they don’t have plans to fly in the near future.
For those arriving at LAX by plane, the experience starts with a chauffeured car. PS representatives wait in the jetway to meet guests as soon as they step off of their flights, and promptly escort them to an awaiting vehicle below.
PS has a fleet of vehicles available to use depending on group size but the flagship is the BMW 750i. Ideal for one to two passengers, the classic all-white sedan features an executive configuration for passengers in the back.
The car is loaded with luxurious amenities including leather seats with recline functionality to individual climate control for passengers in the back.
There are even seat-back entertainment screens from which the SiriusXM radio can be controlled.
Then, it’s around a 10 to 15-minute drive to PS, located on the south side of the airport. As two runways separate the facility from the commercial terminals, drivers have to go all the way around the airport while obeying the airport’s modest speed limit
As an aviation enthusiast, however, I wish the drive lasted longer as we were right alongside moving aircraft for most of the drive.
Behemoth jets like the Boeing 747 were just outside the window, departing and landing just feet from the car.
It was like getting a private tour of the airport all while traveling at the height of luxury.
Upon arrival at PS, it’s just a short walk down a private hallway into the facility. Everything from reservations to payment is done online so there’s no checking in or waiting in line. I didn’t even see another guest for the entirety of my stay.
There are 13 suites in total at PS. Not all have received the redesign but that project is expected to be completed within the next six months.
I walked into the suite and felt as if I’d just checked into a luxury hotel.
It was incredibly modern and above any private lounge that I’ve seen at an airport. Members pay $3,250 per visit while non-members pay $4,350 per visit for up to four travelers.
The suites aren’t as large as a hotel suite but are comparable in size to a New York City studio apartment and include spacious living areas, wet bars, fully-stocked mini-fridges, and private bathrooms, among other features.
PS takes a personal touch when dealing with guests. A handwritten note is left for guests welcoming them to the facility and detailing what they can expect from the stay.
A massive high-definition television with DirecTV serves as the main entertainment for the suite, helping pass the time until a flight.
Guests can also make use of the in-suite phone and stationary. PS staff use the phone to communicate with guests and keep them informed on their departure information.
This quasi-kitchen and wet bar are where all of the suite’s food and beverage items can be found.
A selection of high-end snacks, liquors, and wines were all on offer and available free of charge to guests.
Snacks included pistachios, almonds, keto-friendly cereal, and water crackers, to name just a few.
Guests are also encouraged to take snacks with them on the plane and given this blue box to do so.
The fridge contained chilled soft drinks, waters, milk, alcoholic beverages, and even some more snacks. A guest here will truly want for nothing as everything is at their fingertips.
Those making cocktails can use the bar station and the pre-filled bucket of ice.
And there was no shortage of glasses, cups, and dishes to use when dining.
Complimentary travel accessories were also scattered across the suite including noise-isolating headphones, headphone splitters, and charging cables.
The luxury continued into the restroom complete with marble floors and vanities, as well as gold-plated sink faucets.
And the complimentary amenities kept on coming with everything a traveler would need to freshen up before a flight.
There was even a selection of over-the-counter medications on offer if a traveler is feeling unwell or just wants a dose of Vitamin C to boost the immune system while traveling.
The suite design is the result of a partnership with Cliff Fong, a renowned design consultant, and it really felt like home instead of a transient space.
“Our vision was always like, let’s create a space that feels residential, that feels like their home, that doesn’t feel like the airport, that doesn’t feel like a commercial space, that feels very familiar and collected,” Belouizdad said.
The suite window overlooked the airfield, as well as the PS fleet of luxury vehicles. The firm also offers a new service, called PS Direct, where flyers can be taken straight from their domestic flights to their final destination and avoid both the commercial terminal and the PS facility altogether.
Directly adjacent to the suite is an outdoor patio with benches and chairs to enjoy a bit of the outdoors before heading off on a plane for however many hours.
Suite 13 is often the most sought after since it includes this private outdoor space, accessible via a sliding door from the living room.
Meals are included in the stay and everything comes pre-packaged for sanitary reasons.
The current menu is largely focused on Los Angeles-inspired meals, mainly salads and sandwiches, for lunch and dinner.
I sampled the Peruvian steak sandwich and the chicken and prosciutto salad. Both were bursting with flavor and better than most of what’s available even in LAX’s premium lounges.
It really came as no surprise that the wealthy are buying up access to the facility since staying here was so much more enjoyable than any airport experience I’ve had in years.
For me, I found the true luxury of the suite wasn’t the complimentary goodies that were offered but that it was a quiet place to relax during a long layover nestled into an already long day of travel. Suites also feature a sleep kit with eyeshades and earplugs.
When it was time to leave, PS staff came to the suite and escorted me to the in-house Transportation and Security Administration checkpoint. There’s no line and TSA PreCheck was available.
Then, it was just a short drive back to the commercial terminals and my awaiting JetBlue Airways flight.
PS Direct lets travelers skip the terminal entirely, including the PS private terminal, and head straight to their final destination just moments after stepping off of their commercial flight. That means no more waiting in taxi lines or walking through a crowded terminal to find one’s driver.
A PS representative greets passengers in the jetway and escorts them directly to the airport tarmac where their stylish BMW 750i awaits. The four-seater sedans feature executive passenger seating complete with seat-back entertainment screens, recline functionality, seat-warming capabilities, individual climate control, and a sunroof, to name just a few amenities.
Only PS annual members have access to the service and just a single ride incurs a fee of $3,450, which is $200 more than the cost of booking a luxurious suite at the facility. A yearly membership at PS costs $4,500 and comes with benefits like complimentary valet parking, free spa services (not available during the pandemic), and priority reservations when booking suites.
Amina Belouizdad, co-CEO at PS, told Insider that the higher price point for the service compared to its suites comes as a result of the cost of licensing for its drivers and other expenses associated with launching the service.
For frequent PS users, the experience will be largely similar to what they’re accustomed to when frequenting the suites except they’ll just skip the private terminal be driven straight to their homes, hotels, or wherever they’re staying in Los Angeles. Even those flyers that have checked bags can skip baggage claim and use the service.
“If you’ve checked bags, you wait five minutes on average in the BMW while we retrieve your bags from the plane, put them in the trunk of your car, and then we drive you straight home,” Belouizdad said.
The service is currently only available when arriving on a domestic flight. PS has its own US Customs and Border Protection facilities that inbound arrivals can use but that requires a stop in the private terminal.
Planeside pickups have historically been a benefit of flying private but PS is the first to make it available for commercial flights in the US, an impressive feat considering the heightened security environment that exists at bustling international airports like LAX.
I earned elite status on Delta Air Lines in late 2019, just a few months before the pandemic grounded even the most frequent flyers. My first experiment flying with status in February 2020 earned me hundreds of dollars in free extras like upgrades to first class and more legroom seats.
Enjoying the perks of the status during the pandemic, however, has been harder as Delta is blocking middle seats and adjacent seats in first class. It’s an easy trade-off to make when it comes to safety but means fewer upgrades to the premium cabins.
Delta, like most major US airlines, extended its members’ elite status for an extra year and gave frequent flyers like me more time to enjoy the perks. On a recent trip, I took three Delta flights to see how far having status would get me, even as a lowly Silver Medallion as those in the first rung of the program are called.
I flew from Houston, Texas to New York via Salt Lake City and Los Angeles on a variety of aircraft to see just how much more I’d get from my fare by sticking with Delta during the pandemic.
Here’s what I found.
Having elite status on Delta comes with a variety of free perks ranging from first class upgrades to checked bags.
And as any elite will likely say, the upgrades are the most sought after as they can be the best bang for you buck and can instantly elevate a trip. Even Silver Medallions can get upgraded to first class, as I found on a February 2020 trip to Orlando.
Coming home from a trip in February, I booked three flights on Delta for a total of $139.50 which meant three opportunities for upgrades either into first class or Delta Comfort+, an extra legroom section of economy.
The real prize, however, would be to get an upgrade on the longest of my flights, from Los Angeles to New York. Delta classifies this route as “Delta One” and the Boeing 767-400 operating the flight featured brand-new first class seats.
The upgrade window for Silver Medallion opens 24 hours before departure for each flight. But that didn’t stop me from checking the seat maps on my flights every day leading up to the flight to check my odds.
My first flight was from Houston to Salt Lake City on Delta’s Airbus A220-300, the newest aircraft in its fleet.
With the new seat-blocking policy, the normally 30-seat Comfort+ cabin was reduced to 16 seats…
And first class was down from 12 seats to only six. I might’ve had a good chance to get upgraded into first class in normal times but it was seemingly impossible now.
My flight was departing at 7:50 a.m. so I made sure to check in exactly at the 24-hour mark to see if I had scored the upgrade. The odds were quickly stacked against me as I soon found myself number nine out of nine for a first class upgrade with one seat available.
I was able to snag a Comfort+ upgrade, however, valued at $45.
The upgrade yielded me a window seat in the second-row of the cabin. This normally would also mean being one of the first people on the plane but Delta now boards from the back to the front due to the pandemic.
These seats offer 34 inches of pitch, giving me some extra room to stretch out during the three-hour flight to Utah.
Once airborne, flight attendants began the in-flight service. Comfort+ typically receives “premium” snacks but all economy passengers now receive a snack bag, with mine featuring Biscoff cookies and Goldfish.
Complimentary alcohol, however, is a perk that’s surprisingly survived the pandemic service cuts. It was a bit early for me so I held off but was shocked that I could order a beer and not a soda.
While it wasn’t first class, the Comfort+ upgrade combined with the empty middle seat made for a great flight to Salt Lake City. And come time to deplane, I was off relatively quickly.
My $139.50 ticket was now worth $184.50 thanks to the $45 upgrade.
My next flight was from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, a quick one-hour hop on a slightly larger Boeing 737-900ER. The total number of available first class seats on this aircraft is 10, and 14 in Comfort+ under the seat blocking policy.
I thought I had a better chance of a first class upgrade on this one but I was sadly mistaken. I was number five on the upgrade list out of five with three seats open.
I did manage to get another upgrade to Comfort+ pretty quickly after departure, valued at $24. Once again, I got a window seat with the middle seat open.
The aisle seat also ended up staying open, as luck would have it, giving me an entire row to myself. This upgrade was almost proving to be equal to first class.
The quick flight to Los Angeles meant only an hour to enjoy the upgrade but I did take advantage of the complimentary alcohol.
And naturally, I was one of the first to “hop off the plane at LAX.” The total value of my $139.50 ticket was now $208.50 thanks to the $24 upgrade, with one flight to go.
The next flight was the big one, Los Angeles to New York on one of Delta’s largest jets.
I was already upgraded to Comfort+ and that would’ve been a fine consolation. Comfort+ seats on this jet were the equivalent of domestic first class seats on Delta’s smaller jets.
But I was striving for Delta One and the odds were in my favor as no seats were blocked for social distancing in the 34-seat premium cabin. I was 16 of 19 on the upgrade list leading up to departure.
I was hoping to get an early upgrade so I could use the Delta Sky Club, which is open to domestic Delta One passengers, but it was looking like I’d get the infamous gate upgrade.
Delta sometimes tries to wait until the very last second to sell an upgrade and those on the upgrade list won’t know they’ve been upgraded until they literally scan their boarding passes.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. I was assigned seat 8D in Delta One.
First class was allowed to board first and I turned left into the immaculate cabin. Delta primarily uses this jet to fly to Europe and South America but the pandemic had luckily relegated it to primarily domestic routes like this one.
My seat was away from the aisle and offered additional privacy.
I immediately got to work playing with all of its features, including the big in-flight entertainment screen.
Among other amenities, the seat came with a pillow and comforter…
And power outlets.
It was safe to say that this was going to be a good flight.
We quickly departed from Los Angeles and it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a typical first class flight. Even in Delta One, there were no hot towels, meals, or champagne, par for the course during the pandemic.
Flight attendants instead offered us the standard snack bag and some snack boxes. I chose the meat and cheese kit.
Complimentary alcohol was also on offer but nothing more than beer and wine.
I settled in for the flight just fine and did my best to stay awake after an already long day so that I could enjoy the experience. Day quickly turned to night and the mood lights in the cabin activated, making for an incredibly relaxing ambiance.
The in-flight entertainment screen had no shortage of selections and I watched Tenet and Citizen Kane all the way to New York.
Delta was charging $799 extra for this seat and I was able to get it for free. The new value of my $139.50 ticket was $1,007.50.
Would I have snagged this upgrade in normal times? Almost certainly not.
Getting a first class upgrade as a Silver Medallion proved to be harder during the pandemic than in normal times but getting at least one flight in the premium cabin made it all worth it.
Delta is “upgauging,” or placing larger aircraft, on more domestic routes that increase a frequent flyer’s chance of an upgrade but getting bumped to first class is few and far between for those lower in the program thanks to the seat-blocking policy.
April 30, however, is the current expiration date for that policy (unless Delta extends it again) at which point it may be easier for elites to snag a first class seat. Until then, the best way to first class is to either buy a ticket in the cabin or seek out the airline’s largest aircraft.
Most perceptions of private aviation include chartering an expensive plane and spending thousands of dollars for just an hour of flight time. But a growing market in aviation is for personal private jets, planes that are small and simple enough that they can be flown by one person while being cheaper to operate than traditional jet aircraft.
One of the newest personal private jets on the market is the Cirrus Vision Jet. Having debuted in 2016, the aircraft comes in at a mere 30.7 feet long and 5.1 feet wide, making it one of the world’s smallest and cheapest private jets.
The base model of a first-generation Vision Jet costs just under $2 million with direct operating costs under $1,000 an hour. And that includes fuel and maintenance costs, according to Nassau Flyers, a Vision Jet operator based on Long Island, New York.
The entry-level aircraft is a jack-of-all-trades. The aerial equivalent of a luxury SUV, it’s ideal for loading up the family and flying down to Florida for the weekend, while a road warrior can use it to reach remote destinations and be home before the end of business.
I went for a ride in and saw why it’s the perfect plane for the post-pandemic world.
Nassau Flyers, a high-end flight school at Long Island’s Republic Airport, operates a Cirrus Vision Jet for a local businessman.
It’s the flagship of the flight school, which prides itself on an all-Cirrus fleet on training aircraft for its clients as a Cirrus Training Center. Cirrus’ propeller aircraft are widely considered to be among Cadillacs of piston aircraft for their speed, comfort, and safety.
The tiny jet just barely stands out amid the school’s fleet of Cirrus aircraft, and that’s part of its appeal. The Vision Jet doesn’t require a large hangar to be stored in and can easily fit in the individual hangars used by Cessnas, Pipers, and other small aircraft.
Cirrus built the Vision Jet as the next step up for flyers of its piston aircraft. There are numerous similarities between the two types, including the cockpit configuration and the aircraft’s wings.
Most pilots at Nassau Flyers who set their sights on the Vision Jet often start off on the Cirrus training aircraft before making their way to the jet. The owner of this one uses it for business, visiting multiple remote cities in a single day.
The Vision Jet is unique since it’s a single-engine aircraft. Most jet aircraft have two engines, one on each side, but the Vision Jet only has one engine, on top of the fuselage, which lowers operating and maintenance costs.
Our pilot for the day, Sean, normally files the jet by himself, as the owner is still in training.
The owner previously used an SR-20 series aircraft to fly around the region for business but was able to expand his business up and down the Eastern Seaboard and beyond once he acquired the Vision Jet.
In addition to the pilot, the jet seats three people in this configuration, with two passenger seats in the back and one in the cockpit next to the pilot. Three more seats can be added in the back, bringing the total to six (not including the pilot).
With only two seats in the back, there’s plenty of legroom and room for luggage, golf clubs, or a pair of skies to fit in the cabin. This is with the copilot’s seat all the way back.
There’s even enough room for a makeshift bed on longer trips.
The cabin is 4.1 feet tall so there’s not much room to stand up but the curvature of the fuselage makes the cabin feel larger when sitting as a passenger.
An exterior-accessible storage compartment can also be found in the back of the aircraft.
A carry-on bag can fit back here or a few smaller bags.
Powering the aircraft is a Williams International FJ33-5A engine, offering 1,846 pounds of thrust. It’s not a lot compared to an airliner but will get the jet to a top speed of around 300 knots with a range of about 800 miles.
Unlike traditional two-engine jet aircraft, pilots flying the vision jet need only a private pilot’s license and an add-on instrument rating. To fly a twin-engine aircraft, a multi-engine rating would be required.
Once pilots earn their private pilot license and instrument add-on rating, training on the jet is quick and can be done at one of Cirrus’ facilities, where it’s about a two-and-a-half-week process to get a type rating. Some choose to build more hours in the piston before moving to the Vision Jet.
And like all Cirrus aircraft, the Vision Jet is equipped with a parachute to be deployed in case of an engine failure or other extreme circumstances where the aircraft cannot land safely. The chute is in the nose and totals the plane when deployed.
Newer models also offer a “Safe Return” add-on wherein the autopilot will land the plane if the pilot is unable.
I hoped in the copilot seat for the short hop north since the best views are from the front. There are two seats in the cockpit, but the plane needs only one pilot, so anybody can sit up there.
Our initial flight plan was to go from Long Island to Martha’s Vineyard, but shortly before the flight our pilot noticed that there was bad weather and we changed our destination to Glens Falls, New York, near Lake George, at the last minute.
The speed at which we were able to change our entire plan for the day without delay was a testament to how versatile the aircraft is. With the possibility of a second wave to this pandemic, some states may go back into lockdown and travel plans may need to change at a moment’s notice.
Sean would be doing all the work this flight including flying and talking to air-traffic control. The plane is designed with this kind of flying in mind, evident in the fact that starting the engine on this $2 million plane is as easy as starting a car, with just the press of a button.
Nearly everything in the cockpit is controlled by touchscreen, and all checklists, charts, and airplane systems can be displayed on the two high-definition screens. There’s also a full autopilot system with everything except auto-throttle, which is available on newer Vision Jets.
Unlike commercial airliners, the overhead is rarely used on the Vision Jet.
The jet is flown using a side stick, a popular Cirrus feature. Buttons on the stick can disengage the autopilot, control the trim, and activate the radio when it’s time to talk to air-traffic control.
It took less than five minutes from hoping in the plane to taxing out to the runway.
It was a rainy day on Long Island, so we filed an instrument flight plan to head north. The Vision Jet doesn’t have windshield wipers but any rain quickly flew off as we accelerated forward.
Take-off speed was 100 knots, and then we climbed at a rate of 1,500 feet per minute. It wasn’t before long that we were above the clouds on our way to 19,000.
The flight time to Glens Falls was only 45 minutes. By car it would take four hours.
The display screens showed our elapsed flying time, estimated time to the destination, and how much fuel we were burning per hour. For this flight, it was 90 gallons an hour with the Vision Jet holding just under 300 gallons.
As the Vision Jet climbed into the upper altitudes, we encountered some icing on the wings but the aircraft’s boot system quickly got rid of it.
The skies were empty for our flight, a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, so we were given clearance to head straight to Glens Falls. After 20 minutes in cruise, it was already time to descend.
There’s Lake George just off of the wing.
Glens Falls doesn’t see commercial service, so the only option for a business traveler heading there would be to drive or take an Amtrak train. The closest commercial airports were an hour away in Albany, New York, or Rutland, Vermont.
Commercial airports account for only a fraction of the total number of public airports in the US. According to Don Vogel, the owner of Nassau Flyers, there are about 500 commercial airports compared to 5,000 public-use airports, and all the Vision Jet needs is jet fuel and a few thousand feet of runway.
The low speeds that the Vision Jet is capable of meant we could make a close-in approach, about two miles from the runway. Whenever Sean turned the plane, a blue curved line would show the new direction of flight.
And just like that, 45 minutes after we left Long Island we were a world away. Case in point, Upstate New York had begun opening weeks prior while Long Island was only a week into the first phase.
Another perk of flying private is getting to use the private terminals, which are normally empty and don’t require going through security checkpoints.
I sat in the back for the next flight, a quick 25-minute hop to Worcester, Massachusetts. Flying commercial between these two cities is impossible.
The seats are narrow but comfortable leather nonetheless. There were all the creature comforts including USB charging ports.
110v AC power outlets.
Personal reading lights and air-conditioning.
There was even a drop-down monitor that a laptop could be connected to, or even loaded up with Netflix.
WiFi wasn’t installed on this plane but newer models can have it. SiriusXM Satellite Radio is also a popular add-on.
We quickly departed Glens Falls for Worcester without delay or need to refuel. The three-hour car journey between the two cities was reduced to 25 minutes of flying at 15,000 feet.
Though there was no flight attendant to serve snacks, there was plenty of legroom on the flight and the cabin is automatically pressurized. At the aircraft’s top altitude of 28,000 feet, the cabin altitude is 8,000 feet.
The windows on the Vision Jet are also oversized, allowing for great views from the back of the plane.
They don’t have shades but are UV-tinted, a feature found on newer aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Worcester was below the clouds, so an instrument approach would be required to access the airport. For the Vision Jet, it was nothing the autopilot couldn’t handle.
As the autopilot brought us down to the minimum altitude for the approach, the outline of the runway was shown on the primary display so that Sean could hand-fly if needed.
At 600 feet, the runway came into view and it was smooth sailing all the way down.
After a smooth landing in Worcester, we headed back to Long Island. Visiting those three cities in one day would’ve meant at least 10 hours of driving and we landed back in New York before lunchtime.
“It’s really the availability of flight and the availability to go places, like the experience that we had today,” Vogel, a licensed pilot, told Business Insider referring to the benefits of having a Vision Jet and flying it yourself.
“The big issue with the pandemic and with the airlines is that they have cut back,” Vogel continued. “If you’re going to Madison, Wisconsin, or someplace … Morgantown, West Virginia, or even down to Knoxville, those flights are disappearing.”
Airlines are reducing frequencies as they can’t fill the same number of flights they once could.
“We definitely see an opportunity that I think more and more people are going to be looking at personal transportation,” Matt Bergwall, Cirrus’ director of the Vision Jet product line, told Business Insider.
“We are already seeing a little bit of a demand for people who are just calling us up and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t want to actually learn how to fly. I see that you have this airplane. Tell me a little bit more,'” Bergwall said.
With the pandemic creating uncertainty over travel plans, Cirrus is hoping that more people will want to take control of their travel by either getting pilot licenses or purchasing planes to be flown by reliable operators like Nassau Flyers.
Airlines are adjusting their schedules to the point where convenience is lost, especially when flying to remote destinations outside major cities. And while the hassles of flying on a commercial airline previously only included going through security and potential delays and cancellations, the concerns of health and safety now have to be considered.
As a true entry-level jet, it’s possible for a new pilot to be flying the Vision Jet with less than 100 hours of experience, though most prefer to build more hours on piston aircraft before doing so.
For business travelers who can’t afford to fly extensively on traditional executive aircraft, the Vision Jet is a more cost-effective alternative and can accomplish most of the same missions, even if it takes a little more time on longer hops.
American Express opened a new Centurion Lounge at Denver International Airport in February, the latest in the financial services company’s growing network of 14 airport lounges that will soon include locations in London and Washington, DC.
The Denver location covers more than 14,000 square feet above the airport’s Concourse C and is Amex’s second-largest lounge behind the newly-opened John F. Kennedy International Airport outpost. Its opening comes as increased spring and summer travel appears more likely thanks to a faster than anticipated vaccine rollout.
American Express now boasts the only true non-airline premium lounge in Denver, which until February only featured airline clubs and a USO location. Airline lounges have lagged behind private lounges in bringing back popular amenities, as Insider found during visits to the airport lounges of the top three US airlines, with this new location offering travelers a better alternative.
Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders, as well as Delta Air Lines flyers with the Delta American Express Reserve card, can access the lounge and use it when departing from or connecting through Denver. Travelers whose final destination is the Mile High City, however, cannot use it upon their arrival.
Lounge patrons are also limited to a three-hour stay per American Express policy. Prior to the pandemic, these lounges were often filled from wall to wall, and they may soon be again.
Take a look inside the Denver Centurion Lounge.
Walk to the western edge of Concourse C at Denver airport and you’ll find the Centurion Lounge. You can’t miss it as the American Express name is displayed for all in the terminal below to see.
It’s quite literally at the furthest reach of the airport, located at the far end of the concourse that’s the furthest from the main security checkpoint. Real estate at Denver airport, however, isn’t easy to come by for lounges so Amex had to take what it could get.
Guests can check-in at the main desk with their boarding pass, credit card, and identification, or use the American Express mobile application for contactless check-in.
Frequent Centurion Lounge patrons might notice something different about this lounge upon entry, and that’s because the Denver location doesn’t have the iconic blue door.
Here’s the blue door at the newly-opened lounge at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, for example.
But the similarly iconic living wall is still in place, filled with live plants.
The seating area is arranged in a horseshoe pattern above the concourse, with floor-to-ceiling windows on each side to give an open feeling.
A total of 587 patrons can be accommodated in normal times but COVID-19 restrictions in Denver only permit a maximum of 150 people at any time.
More patrons will be allowed in as Denver’s guidelines loosen, however.
Lounge chairs and couches line the interior windows, with seats blocked for distancing.
Larger tables are reserved for groups of three or more, to be seated by the lounge hosts.
The lounge does include a family room but it’s largely off-limits during the pandemic.
One of the staples of the Centurion Lounge is complimentary alcoholic beverages and the Denver lounge doesn’t disappoint.
This craft beer bar, one of two bars in the lounge, only serves up local brews.
Even if patrons are just passing through Denver, they’ll still get a taste of the local flavor. American Express’ mixologist, Jim Meehan, crafts a menu that’s specific to each destination.
The craft beer bar is located in the lounge’s game room featuring billiards, shuffleboard, and other tabletop games. like chess and checkers.
The games can be played during the pandemic but accessories are strictly controlled by staff, who also ensure they’re sanitized after each use.
Amex opted for the game room instead of a spa or fitness center.
Classic cocktails can also be ordered but the one drink that isn’t on the menu, however, is the “blue door” since this lounge doesn’t have the blue door.
Construction wasn’t drastically altered due to the pandemic as lounges are already built with privacy in mind.
Some of the solo seats were either spaced already or came with high, pandemic-friendly dividers.
But there are changes in the service. Literature in the lounge, for example, has gone digital.
Plexiglass partitions can also be found at check-in and at the bars.
And any food has to be served from lounge staff.
For business travelers, amenities include a small business center with a printer…
And a conference table.
For private phone calls, the lounge also offers one phone room.
The second bar is located at the bottom of the horseshoe, opposite the check-in area.
This is where most of the cocktails will be crafted, also at no cost to patrons.
Centurion cardholders, AmEx’s “black card,” also receive special perks like Veuve Clicquot champagne.
Digital flight information signage can be found throughout the space so passengers can keep an eye on their flights without leaving the lounge.
The dining area then features classic tables, chairs, and benches for when it’s time to enjoy a meal.
Those wanting to plane spot from the lounge would be ideally seated by the window.
The dining area windows face south and overlook the Southwest gates below. Just across the ramp is the sprawling United Airlines concourse.
On the menu for lunch on the day of our visit was chestnut soup, grilled chicken with salsa verde, Pomodoro di pasta, tiramisu, and berries and cream.
Plates are served on trays and given to patrons.
My tour was after hours but I did manage to sample some of the food, including the Tiramisu. True to reputation, the meal didn’t disappoint.
The lounge also offers a pasta bar during the afternoon and a Nutella crepe bar for breakfast.
Coffee and tea can be found at one of these stations, spread across the lounge. An attendant will also serve the drinks as well.
Overall, this lounge is a great reason to get to the airport early.
The pandemic hasn’t impacted the iconic Centurion Lounge service too much and nothing beats free food and drink while at the airport.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Centurion Lounge without this iconic scene. This chair and art pair can be found at Amex lounges across the network.
Vista Global on Thursday announced a deal to acquire private aviation firm Apollo Jets in the latest bid to grow its US market share.
The acquisition will give Vista around 4,000 Apollo Jets clients and a fleet of aircraft currently operated by Talon Air, an Apollo Jets company. Vista sees the opportunity to convert Apollo’s customers into XO members and subscribers, paying extra for better rates and perks like complimentary aircraft upgrades.
“The Apollo acquisition reinforces Vista Global’s unrivaled commitment to providing every business aviation client with the best value flying solutions around the world,” Thomas Flohr, Vista Global’s founder and chairman, said in a statement.
Growth by acquisition has been Dubai-based Vista Global’s primary means of expansion in the US, starting with the purchase of XOJET in 2018 and continuing with JetSmarter in 2019. The two companies were merged under the Vista umbrella to create XO, solidifying Vista Global as one of the largest private aviation firms in the country.
XO offers five types of membership that range from no charge to $1,000 per month. A free membership still allows customers to book on-demand private charters but charges a $395 per flight booking service while a paid membership waives that fee and includes dynamic pricing.
Apollo Jets, alternatively, does not operate on a membership-based model and the firm’s charter brokers often receive a commission on the flight they book for customers.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw new travel trends better suited to larger operators like XO. Current Apollo clients will benefit, for example, from XO’s fleet of “floating” aircraft, or planes that have no fixed base and can perform one-way flights for a fraction of the cost that traditional operators can offer.
Vista will now be able to offer aircraft management services through Talon Air. The Farmingdale, New York-based Part 135 carrier boasts heavy jets like the Gulfstream G550 and Challenger 604, as well as the largest fleet of super-midsize Beechcraft Hawker 4000 aircraft in the US, that XO clients will be able to book.
Vista expects the acquisition to be completed in the first quarter of 2021 and projects flight activity will grow by 20% following the deal. The completed deal will continue Vista’s track record of at least one acquisition per year since 2018, which shows no signs of slowing.
“I believe this is just the beginning of consolidation in our industry and Vista Global is leading this market transformation,” Flohr said.
Textron Aviation is continuing the legacy of the iconic Beechcraft King Air family of aircraft and debuted its latest iteration in August. Starting at $7.9 million, the King Air 360 features advanced onboard systems aimed at easing the flying experience.
“The Beechcraft King Air 360 builds on decades of renowned versatility and reliability in the King Air family,” Ron Draper, Textron Aviation’s president and CEO, said, “and this upgrade further elevates it with the aircraft’s superior features and engineering advancements designed to create an enhanced flying experience for passengers and crew alike.”
Any frequent private aircraft flyer is sure to recognize the King Air as its been faithfully flying since the 1960s. Aircraft in the product line have been used by entities ranging from private airlines to national governments.
Levi Stockton is the president of Hawthorne, California-based Advanced Air, an aircraft management firm and private charter airline that operates 22 aircraft, including nine King Airs. He recently got a first-hand look at the King Air 360 during a recent visit to Textron Aviation’s Kansas factory.
Here’s why he’s excited about the Beechcraft King Air 360.
Stockton has been flying King Air’s since 2005. The King Air 350, the family’s largest passenger model, is also the flagship of his firm’s scheduled airline division.
“The King Air is really an amazing airplane that does what is advertised,” Stockton told Insider.
And from what he’s seen, the King Air 360 is no different. Textron Aviation’s latest turboprop has room for up to 11 passengers and a range of 1,806 nautical miles.
It can tackle the short hops like New York-Boston or Los Angeles-Las Vegas while also able to stretch its legs on longer routes like Chicago-Miami or Denver-Philadelphia, when conditions allow.
The true improvements are on the inside, however, including in the passenger cabin that can seat up to 11 passengers. Technically it’s same as its predecessor’s, but Stockton says that the cabin liners have been made thinner to give the cabin a more spacious feel.
The windows have manual shades instead of elaborate electronic shades or dimmers.
And the side tables have been elevated so passengers have more knee space. The improvements may seem basic but likely come as a result of customer feedback, Stockton said.
The Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion cockpit has one of the aircraft’s greatest improvements, the addition of an autothrottle system for pilots.
The system allows pilots to set a speed and the aircraft will automatically adjust the throttles to accommodate, reducing pilot workload and ensuring the plane is running at peak performance.
“You’re going to allow the airplane to always be right at the right performance numbers rather than trying to get the throttles just perfect,” Stockton said, adding that this can help prevent engine issues and keep maintenance costs down.
Cabin pressurization is also automated on the new aircraft, further reducing pilot workload. Aircraft cruising at 27,000 feet will also be pressurized as low as 5,960 feet, Stockton said, decreasing air travel’s effect on the body for passengers.
Textron also unveiled the King Air 360ER, offering longer ranges of up to 2,692 nautical miles. That’s enough range to fly from Los Angeles to New York.
Stockton said that King Air has carrying capabilities that outweigh even some jet aircraft. Up to 15 passengers can fit in the King Air 360ER while most light and midsize jets can’t, even if the turboprop isn’t as fast.
And cargo carriers can also use the plane to transport freight.
Both aircraft are powered by Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A engines, offering a maximum cruise speed of over 300 knots.
The same autothrottle and digital pressurization systems are also available in the King Air 260.
Stockton said that making the King Air faster will be something he looks for in future variants.
So will Advanced Air be placing the next order for the King Air 360? No. Stockton’s firm typically manages aircraft purchased by other companies or wealthy individuals and does not typically make purchases itself.
But Stockton does expect to be managing a King Air 360 within the next few years for a client, and is excited to see the iconic aircraft continuing to be updated.
“It just shows that this particular airplane is going to be around for a long time,” Stockton said.