The joys of having a private jet

Even the private-jet industry’s suavest salesman admits that they’re not for everyone.


(Image credit: This content is subject to copyright.)

But even the industry's suavest salesman admits that they're not for everyone

I'm not the biggest fan of flying. Even if you're able to "turn left", and bypass the screaming children and frantic stewardesses in economy, you still have to deal with the lengthy airport queues at both ends. Things are very different for those lucky enough to have a private jet. For them, air travel involves "driving right onto the tarmac just 15 minutes before take-off, skipping the queues, stepping aboard and slumping into a big, comfy chair", says Alistair Charlton on T3. So it's no wonder that many people consider that "there is no bigger sign that you have made it in life than using a private plane".

One person who's a big fan of the benefits of private jets is salesman extraordinaire Steve Varsano. He claims to have "sold or helped to sell almost 300 aircraft over the course of his career" with a total value of $4bn, says Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New York Times. "It is not unusual for him to fly from London to New York or Dubai for lunch", but Varsano does most of his selling from a specially constructed office in Park Lane. The building, which has an estimated annual rent of £750,000, contains "the bulk of the fuselage of an actual Airbus A319" so clients can "visualise just what they will be getting".

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Most of Varsano's clients don't see a private jet as a huge extravagance. In fact, "the owner of a $25m plane feels morally judicious even humble insofar as he doesn't own a $70m plane". For their part, "the three or four hundred owners of the $70m plane come to see it in short order not as a luxury but as a business and lifestyle requirement". And human nature being what it is, within a short while they become "frustrated that the wireless signal isn't strong enough and that there just aren't enough landing slots in Hong Kong or hangar spaces for parking in Mumbai".

The tech crowd take to the air

Varsano's typical clients have changed over the years. Twenty years ago, they were usually chairmen of Fortune 1000 companies, in their mid-50s to mid-70s, says Ben Machell in The Times. Now, a lot more of his business comes from "17-year-old kids coming up with apps that turn into billion-dollar businesses". Still, it pays to be sceptical of those posting pictures of private jets on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, since the industry has a saying that "you know you're rich enough when you can fly on a private jet and not post a picture of it".

Despite his undoubted charm and sales ability, Varsano has been unable to persuade one person to buy a plane himself. He doesn't own a jet because, thanks to the demands of the Park Lane showroom, he doesn't spend enough time in the air for it to be cost-effective. "If you don't fly more than 150 to 200 hours a year, you really should not own an aeroplane", and instead should consider renting or chartering one instead, he advises. While some may consider this a bit strange, it's heartening to see that amid all this extravagance one person has his feet planted very firmly on the ground.

Tabloid money luvvies playing make-believe it's hardly brain surgery

You would have to have been living in a cave not to know that last Thursday was International Women's Day, says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. "Because it was designed by the United Nations to be a day when the world would pause to reflect on the courage of ordinary women who played an extraordinary role in their communities, I decided to light a candle to the legacy of Mrs Thatcher." For her part, Hollywood actress Penlope Cruz (pictured) said that, to show solidarity with the cause, she would be doing no domestic chores at all that day. "I bet her housekeeping staff were nonplussed about that." And Theresa May was out campaigning for women to be allowed to do the jobs men do such as being prime minister. "I wasn't sure which lessons were supposed to have been learned."

"I'll tell you why hardly anyone tuned into this year's Oscars because we didn't want to be preached to by a load of over-privileged luvvies weeping through acceptance speeches and banging on about their craft'", says Camilla Tominey in the Sunday Express. "Frankly, I think we have all had enough of A-listers who are paid millions to dress up for a living and play Let's Pretend' droning on about equality' when they haven't the faintest idea how the other half lives." Acting is very well rewarded and it's hardly brain surgery. "It isn't even appendix surgery." The ultimate prize for any actor should be a full house in the cinemas and theatres, "not a statuette on a mantlepiece".

The number of children who live in households where no one has ever worked has surged to 213,000 an increase of 17,000 in a year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. "Quite apart from the effect on adults of not working, the impact on their children is profound," says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. They are five times more likely to be in poverty and they are less likely to do well in school. And for adults who are able to work, "the importance to self-worth, of having a job and making your own money cannot be overestimated". If it's a case of hating your job, then get another one. "Isn't it empowering to remember that these things are in your control?"