It’s 07:30 Monday morning. My flight to Palma de Mallorca is set to depart London’s Biggin Hill Airport in less than two hours but instead of finding myself in a state of frenzied panic I have just switched the kettle on and leisurely started my morning routine.
The week before I had flown from Stansted to Bologna on a Ryanair service departing at roughly the same time. At 06:30 I was fighting herds of holiday crowds onto the crowded Express train service out of Liverpool Street which I had to get up at an ungodly hour to catch. Half an hour of arguing with the check in desk over a kilo excess baggage weight which cost more than the flight itself and then been herded like cattle through the terminal and you start to question whether the whole fiasco is worthwhile.
This is an altogether more relaxing affair. With a little over an hour until my flight departs I’m leaving my house to be greeted by a chauffeur who wants to adjust the temperature and change the radio station to suit my preference. My suitcase leaves my hand at my house and I won’t see it again until it’s placed on the baggage rack in my sea-facing hotel room. Our prompt arrival at the airport leaves just enough time for a coffee and biscuit before we clear security with ten minutes to go until our departure slot, which we duly adhere to.
Of the many benefits of flying private, and there are many, the hassle-free nature of it all is right up there. But it wasn’t always that way. Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Nicol, a pilot-turned computer scientist-turned commercial pilot-turned entrepreneur, Stratajet came into existence precisely because of the archaic and inefficient state of the modern private jet business. The vision was to change the way people travel by making the world’s supply of private jets more accessible, helping operators achieve maximum efficiency, whilst driving down the price of private jet travel by adapting existing empty legs to suit customers.
In short, Stratajet has democratised the use of private jets in the same way Uber democratised private car hire and AirBnB opened up the private rental market. Although Jonathan would wince at the association, his company is another example of how tech has reengaged age-old economic principles by matching demand with supply. And as I’m sat at over 40,000 feet in the air champagne in hand and a sandwich selection in front of me en route to Palma I couldn’t help but admire the simplicity of it all. But then, the best ideas usually are.
The cost to hire a private jet varies significantly depending on a number of variables including where you are going, when you are returning and what kind of jet you are hiring.
The cost to charter a Super King Air 200 to fly from London to Paris one-way can start at approximately £3,000, whereas a larger aircraft, like the Legacy 600, can start anywhere from £10,000. Although, you would be able to find the same flights at up to 75 per cent less than the full charter price by purchasing a cheaper empty leg.
Other variables that can affect the cost of a private jet hire include which airports you use and if the plane has to fly to that airport to pick you up. Using Stratajet’s smart flight comparison you can search and compare the different aircraft available for your flight. You will also be able to see if the flight has to reposition, so you can make smart decisions in order to minimise costs and get the best value for your flight.
Arriving in Southern Spain to temperatures not too dissimilar to the ones you left in the UK is always upsetting, but as we are swiftly ushered through the airport’s private terminal to an awaiting car it’s hard to be downtrodden about anything. A swift 40 minute jaunt and we arrive at the winding roads that lead up to the Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa that stretches for a kilometre across the cliffs of Port de Sóller on the North Western coast of Mallorca.
On paper the hotel has a resort-like build. It houses a selection of 121 airy sea or mountain facing rooms and suites, spread across 11 buildings connected by wonderfully scented gardens. There is a choice of three restaurants, two bars, a state-of-the-art gym, two swimming pools and a spacious ballroom as well as the luxurious Talise Spa, which is tranquillity itself.
After lunch in Sa Talaia we enjoyed our surrounds for some downtime before convening for an evening jaunt in a catamaran from Port de Sóller. The marina was originally a fishing and military base but today hosts shops, restaurants and bars in a quiet hamlet away from the major tourist areas. An old tramway links the inland town of Sóller to Port de Sóller, running along the beach-side road.
A short boat ride sat on netting that adorns the port of the Catamaran will take you to the famous Ca’s Patro March, which is where Roper’s son Danny supposedly gets kidnapped in the Night Manager. The return leg takes in the sunset over the Mediterranean sea, and without a cloud in the sky and nothing to separate us from the horizon but aqua-blue sea it is quite a sight to behold. Paired with a glass of chilled champagne it certainly makes for a rather agreeable evening.
That evening we dined in the hotel’s tapas restaurant Es Fanals. Situated towards the top of the sprawling cliff edge hotel the restaurant overlooked the infinity pool as well as affording you a good look back over the rest of the complex. And the food was delightful. Iberian ham with cristal bread was brought out to start with along with Padron bell peppers which were well seasoned and ludicrously moreish. Beef tarter with pickled vegetables followed with a tossed warm salad with duck confit, “mountain” rice, grilled prawns and sea bass with tomato vinaigtatte. And as you start to feel full to bursting, such is the way with these drawn-out Mediterranean meals, the pièce de résistance is served; Lamb sirloin with black garlic puree, piquillo peppers and garlic confit, with a large glass of local rouge to wash it all down.
Rousing early for breakfast in the Sa Talaia restaurant overlooking the port I digested the days British news thanks to a special hotel print-out and enjoyed the freshest of fresh orange juices with a pot of coffee and a *yawn* English breakfast selection. Cliché it may be and rather ignorant of me given the wonderful local cuisine on offer, but I can never resist a buffet selection of bacon, sausage and eggs. I added a side serving of aubergine so as to not feel so guilty, but with the early morning’s sun beating down and a fresh sea breeze in the air I couldn’t help but feel ridiculously content with it all.
The trip back home should have been a melancholy affair, but unlike the grim waiting rooms that await you at most airports and the long queues that welcome you at passport control on arrival this journey back was a much more agreeable experience. My bag, once again, would not be in my hands until I arrived at my doorstep and good food and drinks were to be consumed en route. But perhaps the moment that capped our whirlwind 24 hours off was when our car got stuck in traffic outside Mallorca airport with less than 20 minutes to our departure slot. With commercial jets queuing behind us we set off right on time and landed on a warm Tuesday evening back in Britain.
One thing I knew for sure is that it is going to be hard to go back to flying commercial after experiencing this.