How The Private Jet Became The Singular Fetish Object Of The Modern Billionaire
We live in the age of epic income inequality and in this era, private jets are the most sought after objects of the richest, most ambitious, most rapacious people on this planet. Interestingly, not all of these people are businessmen. Politicians – from the West and from the East – also have a thing private jets as William Cohan explains in this entertaining article.
So why do the uber rich love their private jets? Cohan puts forward a variety of reasons and illustrates them with memorable examples. Firstly, there is the small matter of exclusiveness:“Setting foot on the tarmac confers an irresistible, intoxicating feeling of specialness. Avoiding security is the very definition of modern luxury, marking a bright line between private-jet owners and their lucky guests, and the merely rich. Even first-class commercial fliers, with their little glasses of Champagne, their special blankets, are schmucks, fenced off in pens, forced to take off their shoes like everyone else.”
Secondly, nothing announces your arrival more loudly in the world of the mega rich than the possession of a private jet:“One of the first things the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page did after becoming billionaires—thanks to the IPO of Google in 2004—was to buy a used Boeing 767–200 from Qantas, the Australian airline, for $15 million—a relative bargain—and then spend another $10 million refurbishing it with two staterooms, a shower, a dining area, a lounge, and 15 first-class seats and the ability to seat 50 passengers. That was only the beginning. Reportedly since then, Blue City Holdings, the company they created to own their jet fleet, has bought another eight jets, including two Gulfstream Vs and another Boeing, and built a private hangar, at a cost of around $82 million, in San Jose, California.”
Thirdly, up in the air, you are a god and you can create your own perverted rulebook and get everyone to follow it:“According to an age discrimination lawsuit filed (and later settled) by a male pilot against Mike Jeffries, then the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, there were strict rules, contained in a 47-page manual, for how the young, male, scantily clad models were supposed to behave while crewing on the company’s Gulfstream G550. Male flight crew were told to present themselves clean-shaven in a uniform of Abercrombie polo shirts, boxer briefs, flip-flops, and gloves (black for when handling silverware and white for laying the table)…and wearing a “spritz” of the retailer’s own brand of aftershave.”
Fourthly, for people who are very rich but not that powerful – and this is applicable to most billionaires – the private jet gives them a feeling that their wealth can actually buy them power:““For people who are actually not that powerful except that they have a lot of money, it gives them a calling card to have power,” one private-equity mogul explains to me. “It’s all about currency. They get to leave when they want. They get to arrive when they want, and they get to make their friends be on their schedule. And then if they are really dicks, they can leave them when they are late.” [Ted] Forstmann once did that to a guy who was 20 minutes late for a flight, after he got stuck in heavy Manhattan traffic during the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. When another passenger on the plane asked Forstmann to wait, he was told, “Fuck him. I’ve got things to do.””