Fancy an air cruise? It’s the new holiday for the super-rich, a whistlestop world tours by private jet.

It can sometimes seem as though the world exists in two parallel universes. On the one hand, ordinary folk are constantly being urged – by politicians, eco-activists and celebrities – to fly less. On the other hand, demand for private jet travel, which spiked during the pandemic, shows no sign of slowing.

Such is the clamour among wealthy travellers to avoid the crowds, some of the world’s top luxury tour operators and hotel groups, constantly on the search for new and innovative ways to keep their regulars happy, have come up with a new holiday concept: the “air cruise”, offering whistlestop world tours by private plane.

Cocktail Service on a  Private Jet
Cocktail service on a private jet.

Discovering remote lands

“As a market leader in more classic escorted touring, we were keen to come up with something new,” says Andy Squirrell, the managing director of Titan Travel, which last year ran its first private jet adventure, a 23-day VIP expedition aboard a Boeing 737, covering Italy, Montenegro, Jordan, Uzbekistan and Turkey, among other destinations, for about $54,000 per person.

“Coming out of Covid, we really got the sense that people had saved and didn’t want to wait any longer for their once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. It felt like the right moment to launch the touring-by-air concept, but at a price point that’s more accessible than conventional private air travel.”

Among the very wealthy, travel has long involved private aviation. But what we’re seeing more of now is a re-invention of that traditional private jet experience, catering for bigger groups by using bigger aircraft, closer in size or sometimes comparable to those used for commercial flights and reconfigured to carry between about 50 and 80 passengers in great speed and comfort.

A room by the pool in Amanbagh.
A room by the pool in Amanbagh.

A&K tours on its private jet

Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent offers its private jet tours aboard Boeing 757s, allowing 48 customers to travel in first-class style with fully lie-flat beds. Touching down in destinations not easily accessible via major carriers, the plane follows a flight timetable built around the itinerary, not the airline.

The cheapest of A&K’s 2024 trips starts from $258,500 per person. It circles the globe in consummate style, taking in some of the world’s most seldom-seen wildlife, from the Sri Lankan leopard to the migrating humpback whale, touching down in Hawaii, Fiji, Tasmania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Zambia and Brazil. The travelling party includes a valet, a doctor and a “photo enrichment” coach.

 “You can’t fly commercially between the destinations we visit, so the only way … is to fly privately.”

Catherine Heald, Remote Lands’ co-founder and chief executive

Hotel groups have also played their part, with Four Seasons and Aman offering global adventures by private jets of varying sizes since 2015. Aman’s offering is a collaboration with the luxury tour operator Remote Lands and offers trips that often stop in three different continents to take in all of its properties. Its Airbus ACJ319s carry up to 16 passengers, allowing them to get even further off the beaten track.

“You can’t fly commercially between the destinations we visit, so the only way to do it in one itinerary is to fly privately,” says Catherine Heald, Remote Lands’ co-founder and chief executive.

“The expeditions provide the perfect hybrid of small-group and private travel, with each couple or solo traveller having their own private car, driver and expert guide for touring. They allow guests who wouldn’t typically consider a small- group expedition to do exactly what they wish to do each day, as they would on a private trip.”

A private jet on the tarmac.
You could tour the world via private jet on an air cruise.

Not just box-ticking

But an air cruise is not all about rushing from place to place in a box-ticking exercise, there is an increased thirst for learning about a particular destination or subject in greater depth and spending more time on the ground, than you would, say, on a luxury cruise.

“There is often a theme with these jet expeditions,” says Chris Brunning, the co-founder and managing director of UK-based Untold Story Travel, who books private jets of all sizes for his clients.

“Last year, one client wanted to witness the best of the Japanese cherry blossom season in early April, which involved stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Yoshino, Nara, Fuji Five Lakes, Naoshima and Niseko. They wanted an exclusive- use night in a castle, a helicopter ride to Mount Koya with a head priest and private access to a sumo stable. The trip, for six people, aboard a nine-seat ‘super mid-size’ Citation Sovereign jet, cost about £50,000 (AU$97,000) per head.”

Swimming pool with a view, Amanwella, Sri Lanka as part of an air cruise
Swimming pool with a view, Amanwella, Sri Lanka

Joanna Lumley’s spicey inspiration

According to Andy Squirrel, Titan’s spice route tour was inspired by Joanna Lumley’s Spice Trail Adventure.

“We realised we had a number of tours that go to a number of different incredible destinations that could work within that theme, touching on the history of the spice routes, the flavours, the scents. So we thought let’s weave them all together.”

So how are companies reconciling the sustainability issue? Some are investing in sustainable aviation fuels (not yet viable), others are donating to carbon offset projects. Whether it goes far enough is debatable.

“We are very conscious of the carbon emissions element, so work with a company called Climate Partner,” says

Squirrel, who also points out that Titan will never do more than three or four of these trips per year. “We make sure we are off-setting all of our flight-related carbon emissions by contributing to relevant projects in the places we visit.” 

Shelley Cline, the president of TCS World Travel, a Seattle-based trailblazer in luxury travel, sums up the appeal of the air cruise: “Our guests travel with us because we provide luxury travel with a purpose and transformative journeys that resonate deeply on a personal level. They also get rid of the hassles of expeditionary travel without losing the adventure.”


A Komodo Dragon in Komodo National Park, Indonesia with tourists in the background is part of the air cruise trend
Head to remote Komodo National Park for Komodo Dragons.

Three extraordinary air cruises

• Around the world in a jumbo jet

Forty-eight people will join luxury travel pioneer Geoffrey Kent of A&K on an amazing journey designed around a range of fascinating destinations. From Kanazawa in Japan to Ladakh, historic Malta and colourful Senegal, guests will experience every locale at its authentic best, going where other travellers cannot and partaking in exclusive visits to renowned cultural centres and historic sites. Flying in a customised Boeing 757 with lie-flat, first-class seats, a dedicated crew and an executive chef, there will be world-class dining and stays at the world’s finest luxury hotels throughout.
From $285,000 per person, based on double occupancy; 13 October to 7 November 2024.

• ‘The Grandest Tour’

So called because it represents Aman’s longest itinerary yet, this 21-night trip is the ultimate showcase of the group’s properties, moving around the globe in a spacious Airbus ACJ319 jet, visiting hotels in the collection, beginning with Tokyo, before moving on to Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey and Greece. With the freedom of a private car, driver and guide in every destination you can combine private experiences with group activities. So in Tokyo, for example, you can join the group for a lesson in samurai sword combat before heading off with your driver to explore Jyogai Market and vibrant districts like Ginza and Akihabara, relax at animal cafes and catch a baseball game.
From US$198,888 per person (AU$303,357), based on double occupancy; 19 April to 10 May 2025.

• The Spice Route by private jet

Inspired by the fabled Spice Route, Titan’s private jet tour follows the footsteps of ancient traders who brought exotic, highly sought-after spices like pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom to the Western world. It’s going to be an aromatic, delicious journey, brought to life with behind- the-scenes tours on spice farms and plantations, visits to lively souks and fragrant spice markets, and chartered cruises on Kerala houseboats and Omani dhows. There’ll be four-wheel- drive tours over sand dunes and the chance to see beautiful Petra, creative workshops and art-themed walks in Venice, and banquets inspired by heritage recipes from the spice trade.
From £34,995 (AU$67,705) per person, based on double occupancy; 13-19 March 2025.