by John O'Ceallaigh, The Telegraph, June 14, 2017
Then-property tycoon Donald Trumps’s decision to sell steaks through the America electronics retailer Sharper Images reminds us that not all brand partnerships need to make immediate sense, which is perhaps worth keeping in mind with the announcement that easyJet has collaborated with private-jet logistics company Signature Flight Support. As a result, passengers of the popular mass-market airline who arrive or depart from London Luton now have the opportunity to use the facilities at the airport’s private-jet terminal.
It isn’t, however, a service that will likely appeal to the airline’s most cost-conscious customers. In addition to the price of their fare, passengers with the budget airline will be required to pay a fee of £475 (and an additional £120 for each subsequent passenger on the same booking) in order to use Signature Flight Support’s private-jet terminal. (The experience can be booked via signatureflightsupport.com.)
In return they’ll be able to clear customs, immigration and security screening away from the hoi polloi, and can avail of the complimentary food and beverages laid out for the terminal’s VIP passengers; for visitors departing from Luton, a luxury automobile will drive them directly to the aircraft. With three private terminals on its grounds, Luton Airport processes about 30,000 arrivals and departures each year so there’s also a chance they might rub shoulders with delegates, entrepreneurs or celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Taylor Swift.
The Signature Flight Services website lists that the terminal resources include a shoe shine machine, complimentary magazines, milkshakes, champagne and a “Snooze Room”, but travellers who have used business- and first-class lounges offered by the likes of Middle Eastern carriers Emirates and Etihad may be disappointed.
As private-jet lounges operate on the premise that clients will linger only fleetingly - they’re not waiting for a scheduled flight after all, and their privately chartered flight should be ready to leave as soon as they arrive - they usually offer less capacity and fewer bells and whistles than those provided by the best commercial carriers.
When I called for clarification of what was on offer to easyJet passengers, the private-jet terminal’s staff, too, seemed unsure of the offering. The third team member I spoke to was able to clarify that easyJet guests would be able to enjoy “normal light refreshments, alcohol, light lunch, sandwiches, those sorts of things… [but the primary appeal] is very much the convenience of not having to go through the terminal.”
Speaking officially about the launch, Signature Flight support’s Europe, Middle East and Africa managing director Evie Freeman said: “We are pleased to extend this extraordinary customer experience to our newly inaugurated ultra-luxury terminal at London Luton. Customers can now enjoy an elite experience normally only available to those utilising private aircraft. It provides a truly unique experience and our staff can accommodate all passengers’ needs in a world-class manner.”
Head of ancillary revenue for easyJet, Andrew Middleton commented that: “While easyJet will always be famous for our low fares and fantastic on-board service, for some passengers this a chance to combine those things with a VIP experience for their loved ones and we think it will be particularly popular for those celebrating a milestone birthday, anniversary or other special occasion or for those travelling on business.”
Of course, with the £475 charge taken into account, individuals seeking to celebrate a special milestone birthday or anniversary in this way could also potentially book business-class flights with a national carrier to a destination on the easyJet network for a cheaper price. Fast-track check-in and security clearance, lounge access and priority boarding await British Airways passengers departing from London Heathrow Terminal 5 and other airports, while other international carriers provide similar benefits.
For flights further afield, Emirates has also unveiled plans to allow its economy-class passengers to avail of pay-as-you-go to its colossal business- and first-class lounges in Dubai Airport. For $100 (£78) they’ll enjoy up to four hours’ access to the business-class lounge; $200 buys access to its first-class facilities for the same amount of time. And if passengers are exceptionally lucky, they can occasionally fly aboard private jets for less than the price of a ticket aboard a budget airline.