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Private Planes: The Ultimate Accessory

From Internet obsessives to light sleepers, NetJets’ new fleet caters to every flier

Perrier-Jouët did it for champagne: $66,830 for a case of vintage bubbly blended to your own exacting specifications, dubbed By & For. NIKEiD and Puma’s Mongolian BBQ inspired sneakerphiles’ soles, allowing them to custom-design unique kicks. Now runway success NetJets has taken inspiration from such bespokery: It’s managed the seemingly oxymoronic feat of customizing its new fleet for the needs of every traveler.

Last summer, Warren Buffett’s favorite private jet company placed the largest private jet order in history worth a staggering $9.6 billion including an order for up to 275 jets with Montreal-based manufacturer Bombardier. Buying in bulk, as NetJets Senior VP Patrick Gallagher explains, was a strategic decision. For the first time, the private-jet company could tailor-make its own planes, tweaking the standard layout much as a car company adjusts the interiors of a Lincoln or Mercedes when refreshing a fleet. This was a landmark moment. “Historically, we had taken off-the-rack aircraft, but this time around we got a little more focused,” he says.

Over 18 months, the company’s management sifted through the feedback from more than 6,000 NetJetters to find the right cruising attitude for the newly named Signature Series. The loudest request: Guarantee a quieter ride. Every passenger wanted to arrive refreshed and relaxed after a long-haul flight. For the Global 6000 aircraft, the answer was two-fold. Firstly, additional sound dampening was installed in the plane’s body. Secondly, in a radical plot, the interior was reimagined: All staff facilities—the galley and the crew’s rest area and lavatory, which traditionally bookend the cabin—have been front-loaded by the pilot area. And in the Global 6000 fleet, passengers wanting shut-eye or seclusion can then turn the rear seating area into a private undisturbed stateroom.

Technology was the next target. Wi-Fi, which Gallagher calls “the price of entry” for private jet companies today, is standard on every craft. It also forms the basis of NetJets’ new, proprietary in-flight entertainment system. Passengers can use this Wi-Fi network, via their personal iPads or the plane’s own stash of electronic devices, to access an onboard database of TV shows and films. What’s even more impressive, though, is that every time a new plane touches down at one of NetJets’ fixed-base operators, like Teterboro or Van Nuys, it syncs that database with a local server to refresh and update programming.

Finally, NetJets’ management addressed food and beverage. Dispelling the notion that only noxious coffee can be served on planes, they put a Keurig machine in every galley in the Phenom 300 fleet so java can be freshly brewed rather than loaded ready-made at takeoff. After they noted that most seven-seater crafts flew with three passengers or fewer, they cut capacity to six to allow extra galley space for storage. Now, meals no longer need to sit, forlornly covered in Saran Wrap, on seats when customers board. Clumsy spills were addressed by a modular design system that allows piecemeal replacements rather than having to recarpet the plane. As Gallagher explains, “That’s one of the lessons learned from 25 years of people drinking red wine.”