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by Telegraph Luxury Travel Editor and John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, September 29, 2016
Frequent fliers who mourn the demise of Concorde and other bastions of glamorous air travel will soon be able to fly on a commercial aircraft of unrivalled sophistication – one that is being launched by a cruise company.
Currently being developed by the ultra-high-end, US-based Crystal Cruises and set to commence operation in autumn next year, the Crystal Aircruises plane is a Boeing 777-200LR that will accommodate just 84 guests rather than the 314-451 passengers that are ordinarily seated on such an aircraft. The privileged few on board will participate in 14, 21 or 28-day itineraries and will stay in various luxury hotels en route, but for many the opportunity to fly in such elegant surroundings is likely to be a highlight of the trip.
One of the plane's lounge areas
Alongside the expected fully lie-flat seats, measuring 73.5 inches long, the plane features a spacious lounge with stand-up bar, two divans and four dining tables with room for up to six guests apiece. Unique additions to the aircraft and sure to be social hubs during flights, it is here that travellers will be able to enjoy elaborate meals prepared by the plane’s dedicated executive chef and team in two state-of-the-art galleys. A carefully considered wine list will be available alongside the haute cuisine.
Passengers who wish to avoid the hubbub in this quarter can instead make use of their Bose noise-cancelling headphones and plunder the entertainment options on offer. Each will be given an iPad for their journey, WiFi will be available at all times, every seat features a 24-inch interactive TV with on-demand programming and music library, and an abundance of USB ports and power outlets ensure their own laptops and phones need never run out of power. Should sleep appeal, seats will be transformed into comfortable beds with mattress toppers, plush duvets and blankets. The plane’s lavatories will be stocked with amenities from Italian brand Etro.
Ordinarily aircraft of this size accommodate up to 451 passengers; the Crystal Aircruises plane will welcome just 84 guests
Crystal Aircruises itineraries will be devoid of any ocean-cruising element but, like some of Crystal Cruises existing waterborne itineraries, will focus on specific themes such as visiting Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Prices and detailed itineraries will be confirmed over the coming weeks, but prospective passengers can be assured that prices will be pitched at a level consistent with those paid by the ultra-high-net-worth individuals who have long sailed on the company’s cruises.
Speaking about the forthcoming launch, Crystal Cruises CEO Edie Rodriguez called Crystal Aircruises: “not just a thrilling new venture for Crystal, but a groundbreaking development in the luxury travel industry”. It isn’t, however, the only commercially available aviation experience set to rival the glamour and prestige of flying in a privately charted aircraft.
The dining area
Last year Four Seasons launched the hotel industry’s first fully branded private jet . The company now offers round-the-world itineraries aboard a retrofitted Boeing 757 that features interiors by the hotel group’s designers and which accommodates just 52 passengers rather than the 233 this category of aircraft would usually carry.
Guests who book round-the-world tours sit in seats that are sheathed in white Italian leather, and receive Bulgari amenity kits, blankets made of Mongolian cashmere and personal iPads.
The Four Seasons private jet
Other hotel groups have subsequently followed Four Seasons’ lead, with Aman Resorts, andBeyond and the Oetker Collection now offering their customers the opportunity to join intimate private-jet tours that will travel around the world from one property to another.
Aboard national carriers, the most luxurious aviation experience available is undoubtedly found aboard The Residence, a three-room, ‘better than first class’ cabin found aboard Etihad’s A380 services . With a lounge, private lavatory with shower and bedroom at their disposal, a maximum of two passengers will enjoy the undivided attention of a Savoy hotel-trained butler and a host of additional privileges including personalised menus and concierge services before, during and after their trip.
Guests on the TCS World Travel Sea.Sky.Safari itinerary will have the opportunity to admire gorillas in the wilds of RwandaCredit: Fotolia
TCS World Travel, a tour operator that specialises in round-the-world trips aboard private jets has meanwhile inverted Crystal Cruises expansion strategy by offering its clientele the opportunity to cruise. The Seattle-based company has partnered with Seadream Yacht Club to launch Sea.Sky.Safari itineraries . Up to 52 participants will fly on a Boeing 757 aircraft private jet for much of the journey but will also sail in the Mediterranean aboard a Seadream yacht that normally accommodates up to 112 guests.
Departing next May, a 20-night tour that commences in Spain before continuing to destinations including Portofino, Rwanda, Cape Town and Marrakech, costs $107,000 (£82,000) per person, all-inclusive.
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This article was written by Telegraph Luxury Travel Editor and John O'Ceallaigh from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.