Magazine article Newsweek International

A VIP Lounge in the Skies; the Newest Status Symbol in Asia: Cruising in Your Own Private Jet

Magazine article Newsweek International

A VIP Lounge in the Skies; the Newest Status Symbol in Asia: Cruising in Your Own Private Jet

Article excerpt

Byline: Alexandra A. Seno

Hong Kong's wealthy ladies who lunch like their LV (Louis Vuitton) luggage and CD (Christian Dior) handbags. But for those in the know, the hottest travel accessory right now is the "PJ"--private jet. Luxury marketing executive and occasional PJ traveler Francis Cheng says taking such flights--which sometimes serve pricey delicacies like shark's-fin soup--has become one of the region's key status symbols. "For some, it is important to their identity," he says. "It is more high class than first class."

Globally, the number of people flying on private jets has risen dramatically in the past decade. In the United States alone, aviation analysts estimate that last year, some 13 million one-way journeys were made on charter aircraft--almost double the figure from 1993. In Europe, too, dozens of new charter-jet companies have sprung up. But in Asia, the idea is just catching on.

For now, there are only a handful of companies offering the service in the region--though most have announced plans to expand. The highest demand is typically for intraregional flights. At Metrojet, a private jet service affiliated with Hong Kong's Peninsula hotel group, some 90 percent of requests are for travel within the Asia-Pacific area, including 60 percent to China. The biggest challenge charter companies face is in getting civil aviation authorities to relax flight restrictions, says Michael Csapo, the Hong-Kong based operations director for Switzerland's Jet Aviation, one of the world's biggest luxury-charter companies. …

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