The word’s most exclusive private jet is flying medical supplies for COVID-19
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The most exclusive private jet in the world has found a new job to do during the coronavirus pandemic: transporting medical equipment, instead of wealthy passengers. The Boeing 777 owned by Florida-based Crystal Cruises, which in its normal life is chartered for private travel at up to $50,000 an hour, just flew a load of personal protective equipment from China to the United States. It will be called upon to do so again, since its usual customers aren’t flying these days, like everybody else.
“Our core business segment has, of course, been impacted by this global pandemic and that is why we are shifting charters to move cargo in the belly of the plane,” Richard Ziskind, vice president and managing director of Crystal Air Cruises, said in an email. “There will be more flights during this period of COVID-19,” he added.
TPG’s Zach Honig toured the Boeing 777-200LR in 2018, and was impressed by the luxurious ambiance. Fitted with just 88 seats compared to up to 300 in airline service, it even has an onboard mixologist. But on this recent flight from China, there was none of that, just three pilots, all with the rank of captain, and a load master to oversee the cargo.
Flight-tracking site Flightradar24 showed that the plane flew from its home base in Florida to Shanghai on April 13 and flew back to Indianapolis on April 15, both nonstop flights. The cargo it carried back from China was transported in the cargo holds: “We were transporting PPE in the belly of our aircraft,” Ziskind said. Airlines are doing the same to keep up revenue during the pandemic, switching some of their airplanes to carrying cargo in the holds where passenger luggage normally goes.
Crystal Cruises is going to employ its 777 to fly people as well during the pandemic. It will be used for repatriation flights, Ziskind said, and to transport doctors and nurses: “We have a projected plan to move medical teams around the globe as COVID-19 hotspots develop,” he added.
You may find yourself on the Crystal Skye even if you’re not a medical professional: “When businesses become operational, many companies have inquired about using our Crystal Skye for shuttle services,” Ziskind said. “They are going to need to move employees around to reopen several facilities around the globe.” The plane may even be pressed into service as a substitute on regular airline flights. “We have spoken with several airlines to provide ACMI services to fill the gap (…) for when they begin to phase in long-haul operations,” Ziskind said, using an industry acronym for a practice also known as “wet leasing.” That’s when an airline, finding itself short an airplane or more, contracts a third party to provide “aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance” — hence the acronym. Usually, wet leasing entails far more ordinary aircraft, although it sometimes happens that the leased plane is a huge trade-up.
Passengers on the Crystal Skye will find an airplane quite unlike what most of us are used to. The 777-200LR is the longest-range version of the 777, and in this VIP layout it can fly for up to 19 hours without refueling, since it does not carry anywhere near its maximum load.
The 88-seat cabin isn’t, in fact, much more luxurious than some commercial options, but the real luxury happens in the dining and lounge sections of the jet.
Because of the risk of contagion, only half the seats will be used. “We have a huge benefit to our all-luxury configuration,” Ziskind said, “we can carry 44 passengers all within six feet of each other for social distance. They still have enough room to utilize our large lounge as well, within a six-foot distance of one another.”
In normal times, the Crystal Skye 777 flies infrequently, as is often normal for private airplanes. Flightradar24 shows it flies on average a handful of times per month, always with flight number CS772, on routes as long as 17 hours, for example Mumbai to Los Angeles and Acapulco to Melbourne, Australia.
The 777-200LR also holds the record for longest nonstop flight by a civilian jet. In 2005, Boeing flew one for 13,422 miles from Hong Kong to London eastbound, as opposed to the normal westbound route. It was not an airline scheduled flight and there were just 35 people on board — the flight would not have been possible with a full load. So the record for the longest regularly scheduled passenger flight is still in the hands of Singapore Airlines, with its Singapore to New York 9,000-plus mile service on the Airbus A350.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
- Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees