HOW THE OTHER HALF TRAVELS
By Joe Brancatelli
July 3, 2013 --You and I meet in this corner of the Internet 51 weeks a year and our conversation invariably revolves around cost: How much dough it takes to travel, how we can reduce our expenditures and how we can maximize our return on the travel dollars we are required to spend.
But have you ever wondered how much the other half (or, more likely, the 1 percent) spends on travel? You know, the folks with unlimited expense accounts, inflated egos or just more money than they know what to do with.
Here are some ways they can (and probably do) spend it while we Average Joe travelers make do with everyday luxuries like extra-large fries with our value meal and the odd bottle of peppermint-mint shampoo swiped from the hotel bathroom.
Sleep like a mogul
The world is full of very cool hotel suites and expensive-for-the-sake-of-it accommodations that command upwards of $30,000 a night. But if I had my druthers (and the expense account), I'd check into the Tata Presidential Suite at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.
The 5,000-square-foot complex is named for Jamsetji Tata, the man who founded the Tata Group, the $100 billion Indian conglomerate that owns everything from Tetley tea and Eight O'Clock coffee to Taj Hotels and Jaguar automobiles. Besides commanding views of Mumbai Harbor and the Arabian Sea, the suite has all the things a mogul needs to spend a comfortable night: three bedrooms and bathrooms; private balconies; spa, sauna and steam room; private study; gym; 12-seat business center; 10-seat dining room; full kitchen; and a dedicated staff of 13. The floors are marble; the rugs are hand-knotted Indian carpets; the doors are carved from rosewood and teak; and the draperies and upholstery are crafted from silk embroidered with gold and silver threads.
Best of all, the price is reasonable by world-class-suite standards: Only about $17,000 a night during peak season. And the friendly and fastidious butlers won't even blink when a visiting party of three orders every delectable Indian specialty on the breakfast menu, covers the dining-room table with dishes and then proclaims, repeatedly, "This may be the best thing I've ever tasted." I know this because I was one of the three tasting and proclaiming.
Fly like a celebrity's dog
For all of their legitimate and even cost-effective uses as a business tool, corporate jets have come to be the literal definition of over-the-top spending. After all, it's not for nothing that newly minted Silicon Valley plutocrats tend to differentiate between the "plane rich" who can afford their own aircraft and the merely wealthy.
For those of us with more down-to-earth expense accounts, however, renting a private aircraft is probably as close as we'll ever get to being "plane rich." And there are all manner of approaches to financing the private rides: services like NetJets, which offer shared-lease and "jet card" program; charter firms that'll rent you a jet on a one-off basis; and even websites that sell you stray seats on a corporate jet before it departs.
One of the new players, Jumpseat.me, has a somewhat different approach. Registered members can search for a ride on a jet already scheduled to fly or post the availability of empty seats on corporate jets they've booked. The service is sometimes a bargain—a Gulfstream IV jet flying from London to Los Angeles later this month had empty seats for about $6,200 a person, cheaper than flying first class on a commercial airline—and sometimes not.
But don't underestimate the kismet factor of Jumpseat. Last week, a television star who's name you'd surely recognize chartered a 9-seat Hawker 1000 jet to fly his dog from Los Angeles to Teterboro, the private-jet airport serving New York. No one knows what this madman paid to fly his pooch private— Hawker 1000s rent for $25,000-$40,000 for a one-way transcontinental flight— but three Jumpseat.me members scored the empty seats for a total of $5,000. So they not only got a cheaper-than-commercial cross-country ride (three first-class seats on American Airlines cost nearly $10,000), they got to travel with a celebrity's very pampered pet. And, when you think about it, isn't that what life's all about?
Drive like James Bond
We've talked before about the need to think outside the econobox when renting a car, but a new program from Hertz makes it much easier than ever to blow big dollars on a fantasy.
The Hertz Dream Cars program, launched in 35 markets last month, now offers rentals of everything from a Bentley or a Tesla to a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. You'll be met at the airport terminal by a Hertz agent, escorted to your Dream Car and receive a one-on-one orientation about the vehicle. Or you can arrange to have the car waiting for you at your home, hotel or office.
Let's say you've always wanted to be James Bond and drive an Aston Martin. The iconic DB5 with machine guns and ejector seat driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger isn't available, but a quite nice Aston Martin Vantage similar to the one that Daniel Craig has been driving in his Bond flicks can be rented from Hertz. The price: a piddling $1,000 a day. That's an incredible bargain when you consider that Craig bought himself an Aston Martin in March rumored to cost $230,000.
Wait like a VIP
But Frankfurt isn't always on a business traveler's beaten path and, even then, you might not always be flying first class with Lufthansa. Chances are you're more likely to be flying through or from London on another airline. And that's where the Heathrow VIP Service comes in handy.
Tucked away in a private facility far from the madding crowds of Heathrow's public terminals, the VIP service is for those in the know (and in the money). Regardless of the airline they're flying, they are met at the building's front door and escorted to a private lounge called the Windsor Suite. Their baggage and flight formalities are handled for them. They can rest, relax and have a drink or a snack in quiet and comfort. When it comes time to fly, they have their own private security checkpoint. Then they are escorted by limousine right to the door of their scheduled flight.
All in all, a pleasant way to deal with one of the world's most crowded and chaotic airports. And it costs just 1,500 pounds plus the VAT tax — or about $2,700, total — for a party of six. Including bodyguards and personal assistants, of course.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT This column is Copyright © 2013 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2013 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.