Private Jet Club team: pictured, from left, are James Mulderig, VP of charters; Diana Fearis, membership co-ordinator; Becky Ezekiel, VP of operations; and Paulina Brooks, client relations manager
by Tim Smith
For executives at the sharp end of Bermuda’s international business community, private jets are more than just a luxurious way to travel.
The ability to quickly attend meetings overseas at short notice – without wasting time sitting in lounges and navigating the mayhem around commercial airports – makes private air travel a simple business decision, according to James Mulderig of the Private Jet Club.
“Say you’re an insurance executive and you have a meeting with a company you’re trying to insure in some small town in South Carolina,” said Mr Mulderig, the VP of charters at the club.
“With Bermuda’s commercial travel, that’s going to be a problem. You’re going to have a couple of connections, you might have to drive, you’re going to spend all day doing that.
“Versus we are going to put you on a plane and land you at an airport right next to your meeting. After your meeting you get on your plane and fly back here in one day.
“Once you start taking into account the amount that the company values ten hours of five executives’ time at, if we can save them those ten hours and have them in meetings instead of sitting around in Kennedy or Charlotte, all of a sudden it makes huge economic sense for the companies.”
It’s understood more than 500 private jets arrive and depart in a typical year from Cedar Aviation Services, the fixed-base operator at LF Wade International Airport.
The Private Jet Club launched last October to try to make private air travel more efficient and less expensive by creating a network of travellers who can share flights. It already has more than 40 members who visit business destinations such as Boston and New York, second homes in Florida or Vermont and skiing resorts.
Private Jet Club director Robert Mulderig said private jet services play a crucial role in sealing Bermuda’s reputation as an elite offshore business centre.
“The availability of air transportation, including private air transportation, is extremely important to building a world-class jurisdiction,” he said.
“Being able to get there easily, being able to visit and get back in one day, is very important in selecting a jurisdiction.
“Bermuda has very good service for private jets. If a businessman in Boston just decides he needs to go to a meeting in Bermuda, he speaks to a broker, and they will arrange a flight for him.”
Director David Ezekiel said a major part of the Private Jet Club’s business plan is to make life easier by taking care of booking flights and handling negotiations.
“You can arrive 15 minutes before your flight,” he said.
“The staff at the private air terminal have things down pat. The pilots are usually there to walk you to the plane and you’re on. At the other end, we arrange private transport if that’s requested.”
He added: “Quite often, an airplane will come here with a passenger but will leave empty.
“We track all the empty legs. Empty legs are typically much cheaper because the operator has a plane that’s going to earn nothing.”
Cedar Aviation would not reveal the exact number of private jets that come to Bermuda, but noted activity is increasing after a predictable lull during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Managing director Anthony Richardson also pointed to a growing trend towards private air travel for leisure.
“We have been pleasantly surprised to see that activity in the latter part of 2022 seems to be returning to pre-Covid levels,” he said.
“We have also noted a trend for increased leisure travel. Pre-Covid, the majority of visitors were business travellers. Post-Covid, it appears that leisure travel is exceeding business travel as families accept that the increased cost of executive jet travel compensates for the improved convenience and flexibility of executive travel.”
One reason for this, according to the Private Jet Club, is simply that people love their pets – and travelling with animals in the cabin has become more difficult on commercial airlines.
“Half of the flights we’ve done for individual members is people taking their pets away. There’s a huge call for people to do that,” said Becky Ezekiel, VP of operations.
“People get in touch saying, ‘Can you guarantee I can take my dog on this trip?’