Inside the Boeing 757 that’s been converted into a PRIVATE JET

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Another blini for your caviar, madame?’ I’m asked as we cruise above Iceland’s snow-capped mountains and I settle into my wide, Italian cream leather and walnut wood-finished throne.

Around me, my fellow guests, all smartly dressed and brimming with excitement, are sipping on perfectly chilled Dom Perignon champagne vintage 2013 (costing more than £200 a bottle) while getting to know one another.

We’re on board Abercrombie & Kent’s private jet, flying in extreme style from Reykjavik, in Iceland, to Portland, Oregon.

The company whisks small groups of wealthy travellers across the globe on trips costing up to £156,605 ($200,000) for up to 26 days.

Private jet tours like this have been growing in popularity since the pandemic and are now offered by several luxury travel companies, including the Aman and Four Seasons hotel groups. I’m sampling it for one journey.

Harriet Sime travels on Abercrombie & Kent’s private jet, which has been designed to whisk small groups of travellers across the globe on trips costing up to £156,605. Harriet is pictured above enjoying a glass of Dom Perignon champagne vintage 2013, which costs more than £200 a bottle

Abercrombie & Kent’s jet (pictured) is a reconfigured and customised Boeing 757

While crisscrossing the world, guests are treated to three-course meals cooked by private chefs, lie-flat seats, fluffy slippers and duvets, Briggs & Riley amenity bags overflowing with L’Occitane goodies, iPads preloaded with newly-released films, a travelling ‘bell boy’ responsible for the luggage and a photographer ready to capture every moment. There’s even a doctor on board for the duration for ultimate peace of mind.

Abercrombie & Kent’s jet is a reconfigured and customised Boeing 757. Planes like these usually carry 200 or so passengers. But this one has just 48 handcrafted business class-like seats, which massage their occupant in different modes and lie flat at the click of a button.

I’m allocated 9A, a window seat with absolutely everything I need within touching distance: almost as soon as I notice my phone’s running out of battery, I find a charger in a side pocket; when the chatter in the cabin picks up a notch while I’m settling down to sleep, I find Bose noise-cancelling headphones above my head; the moment I feel peckish or in need of a top up, a cabin crew member comes over and places something on the wide walnut table in front of me.

On Abercrombie & Kent’s Wildlife Safari tour, passengers take in eight countries, making stops to spot snow monkeys in Japan, bears in Malaysia, Bengal tigers in India, lemurs in Madagascar and gorillas in Uganda – all the while bubble-wrapped in luxury

Planes like these usually carry 200 or so passengers, but this one has just 48 business class-like seats, Harriet reveals. She describes her seat as an ‘Italian cream leather and walnut wood-finished throne’

The guest-to-cabin crew ratio is 1:7 and the staff wear navy skirt suits, corsages and wide smiles.

During the flight, conversation flows just as fast as the bubbly. ‘We become like a big family during these trips,’ Ann Epting, A&K’s senior vice-president of private jet travel, says. It may sound cheesy – but it’s true.

As we cross over Canada’s deep blue lakes, white linen cloths are placed on our tables and we’re treated to chicken Caesar salads, followed by honey and lime-glazed Arctic char with lobster sauce and a pudding of caramel chocolate mousse with crumbled brownies.

The chairs ‘massage their occupant in different modes and lie flat at the click of a button’

Harriet is impressed with the food on board, commenting that she has ‘had worse meals at Michelin-starred restaurants’

As well as top food, explains Harriet, there’s an extensive and unlimited drinks menu that includes negronis and espresso martinis, campari, martini, cognac, and bottles of red and white wine which would cost more than £100 at your local restaurant

The guest-to-cabin crew ratio is 1:7 and ‘the staff wear navy skirt suits, corsages and wide smiles’

The Briggs & Riley amenity bag with L’Occitane goodies that each passenger receives

I’ve had worse meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and can’t quite believe what I’m tasting at 38,000ft.

The extensive and unlimited drinks menu includes negronis and espresso martinis, campari, martini, cognac, and bottles of red and white wine which would cost more than £100 at your local restaurant.

The eight hours whizz by in a ridiculously luxurious blur, and before we know it, the jet is touching down in Portland. I’ve never been so unhappy to walk off a plane.

Once we disembark, the jet is cleaned and restocked ready for those lucky guests who are continuing on a 25-day Wildlife Safari tour, taking in eight countries and making stops to spot snow monkeys in Japan, bears in Malaysia, Bengal tigers in India, lemurs in Madagascar and gorillas in Uganda – all the while bubble-wrapped in luxury.

In total, they’ll be in the air for 55 hours. A similar itinerary via commercial flights would take 117 hours, plus an extra 77 in layovers. One journey on another tour between Cebu in the Philippines and Sandakan in Malaysia would usually take 19 hours plus two layovers; A&K’s private jet does it in 40 minutes.

Passengers never have to queue and are whisked through private terminals with immigration cards pre-filled by the staff.

Hotel stops, meanwhile, are taken at the world’s finest brands, including The Peninsular, Shangri-La and Ritz-Carlton.

Passengers on the Abercrombie & Kent private jet tour never have to queue and are whisked through private terminals with immigration cards pre-filled by the staff

If the plane touches down somewhere off the luxury hotel path, A&K will book a three or four-star hotel and convert it to five-star. They’ll train staff (or bring in their own), replace furniture, bed linen and mattresses, paint walls and add artwork.

For this all-inclusive odyssey, you’re asked to pay £139,670pp ($176,000). Demand is high and almost 40 per cent of customers return for their second, third or even ninth trip.

Guests spending what some people pay for a house means expectations are, of course, very high. So do the staff ever say ‘no’ to guests? ‘No’, comes Ann’s quick reply as a wry smile spreads over her face. ‘Honest to goodness, we do everything we can to cater to our guests’ needs and no isn’t really in our vocabulary. There was one time a couple requested eight feather pillows in every hotel room so we made sure that happened.’

Then there was the woman who brought along nine suitcases and presented seven pages of dietary requirements; the vet who wanted to eat a pig’s head while in the remote Philippines; the man who proposed after being helicoptered to Everest base camp, and then asked if the staff would arrange his wedding a few days later — which they did, of course, in Sicily.

So, is it worth it? If you have the money, absolutely. But it’s also dangerous. Jet around the world like this and you might never again want to take a normal commercial flight.

TRAVEL FACTS

Abercrombie & Kent offers Around The World By Private Jet tours from £139,670. The next Wildlife & Nature tour departs from Hawaii on September 2 (abercrombiekent.co.uk, 03330 603892).

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