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Brother can you spare a jet?
February 18, 2009 4:44 PM   Subscribe

With orders for new aircraft down, the private jet industry is launching a PR onslaught and a website to counter all the bad press surrounding greedy executives flying private jets. Lo and behold, two financial columnists expressed strikingly similar views on the subject. Members of Congress, who love to catch a ride home on a contributor's private plane, are helping out too.
posted by up in the old hotel (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I'm a-bereavin', of the jetplanes
Don't know when they'll be bought again
Oh baby, I hate to go*


*To Vegas on a commercial plane
posted by ORthey at 4:51 PM on February 18, 2009


"two financial columnists expressed strikingly similar views on the subject."

Are you implying they're Doug Bandows? (The "eminent" CATO Institute Libertarian who accepted cash to write columns per Republican lobbyist and jailbird Jack Abramoff's orders.)
posted by orthogonality at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2009


With orders for new aircraft down

TOO SOON
posted by stresstwig at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2009


I used to work for a crazy millionaire. Crazy though he was, he was also financially responsible. He looked at getting a private jet for a while, but eventually opted for an American Airlines executive pass. AA had a hub in his city, and the pass let him and several subordinates fly first class whenever they wanted. He flew private occasionally, but understood it for what it was - a treat. An extravagance.

This talk about "oh, I need have a company jet because I'm an important person who can't waste time in the airport" is just bullshit. Unless you have a business need to fly every week (whcih would be ridiculous, given modern teleconferencing), the time savings of flying private over first class is marginal at best, and almost never justified by the cost. It's just an excuse rich people use so they can live in their own little bubble, and not have to see us commoners in the airport lounge.

Private jets are a pure luxury item, and almost never justify their cost. Unless maybe you need to grease some congressional palms in style.
posted by heathkit at 4:56 PM on February 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


Obviously, the solution is to give everyone in Detroit a private jet.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2009


Ben Stein's article, especially the "Fury in Washington" section, irked me.
This is not true. A private plane is really a flying office. It is a way for a busy executive to get from one place to another as efficiently as possible, to get as much work done as possible on the way, and to avoid down time.
1) Packing your suitcase and working on a commercial flight in first class could also be your "Flying Office". 2) How long does it take to get from Detroit to Washington by jet? That is, how much down time would really be avoided?

There's also his "white man's burden" bit:
Then, once the attendees get to the meetings, they have to get up very early each day, hear speeches from experts in their fields, take notes, have seminars about their notes, hear more speeches, and meet new people to do more business. Then, exhausted from a very long day, they are offered the chance to play golf -- and my experience is that most of them are far too tired to do so.
Speeches and meeting people and taking notes? God damn. I wish I could buy you a plane all on my own, note-taking, hand-shaking speech-listening conference attendee. I'm sorry I was ever angry at you for running this country right into the fucking ground.
posted by boo_radley at 5:12 PM on February 18, 2009 [18 favorites]


Only if you *drive* it there on the back of a pick-up.
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on February 18, 2009


There's also his "white man's burden" bit:

That's not what "white man's burden" is actually about :P

Anyway, I don't particularly care about this but I thought it was interesting to compare this with the Lobbying that's been going on F22 lately, because what else are we going to use if we get invaded by space aliens!?
posted by delmoi at 5:23 PM on February 18, 2009


They can downscale to jetpools.
posted by terranova at 5:26 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


First up in the air when the revolution comes.
posted by DU at 5:36 PM on February 18, 2009


"That's not what 'white man's burden' is actually about :P"

Boo Radley's usage is correct; Kipling in the eponymous poem wrote (perhaps unironically, perhaps satirically, there's no consensus):
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
The claim being that, while black and brown people did all the (literally) heavy lifting, it was the white colonial administrators who really making a sacrifice. (The poem's inspiration was the beginning of American imperialism, in the Philippines.)

Of course, Kipling knew that the colonial administrators in India were mainly middle-class Britons who had it much better in India (because of cheap native labor, and the supposition of their racial superiority over that labor) than at home.

Boo points out that Ben Stein makes a similar claim, wholly unironically, seeking to tell us that it's the management at $530 a night conferences featuring afternoons of golf (and not the guys making minimum wage) who the real hard workers.
posted by orthogonality at 5:38 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I know speeches and meeting people and note-taking exhausts Ben Stein because I've seen how red his eyes get.
posted by DU at 5:47 PM on February 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, I have to agree. Bizjets are definitely luxuries - if you can afford them, great, but there are definitely cheaper ways to get around.

Air taxis are really what I want to see take off (ha!). You get all the benefits of private jets - no security, no waits, ability to utilize closer, smaller airports - but without the enormous cost of jet ownership. Eclipse was really the last, best hope for the air taxi industry, unfortunately, and now they're toast.

But then I saw this earlier today. Air taxi service using Cirrus SR22s, will pick you up anywhere in the greater New York City metro area and deliver you anywhere in New England. They claim a trip from NYC to Boston is about the same cost as a commercial flight. Considering the commercial flight takes only an hour or so, but add 2 or 3 hours to get to the airport and through security, deal with luggage... Now you're looking at a competitive business.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:51 PM on February 18, 2009


I have a theory that the rise in violent crime, burglary, vandalism etc. is due to this sort of selfish "let them eat cake" attitude of ludicrous salaries and perks. Of course it's cleverly dressed as a necessity but I see it for what it is: I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT ANYONE. I'M LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE.

People are simply emulating our political and business leaders. Just because fate has given them different tools [say, fists and knives vs. a corrupt network of Ivy League pals] doesn't mean much to me.

DISCLAIMER: But there is no rise in crime it's just reported more by the hysterical media yada yada police keep better records blah blah…
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:18 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe if they make a plane that's made of fully recyclable material and shoots money out its ass soaring across the globe..
posted by pyrex at 6:26 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't Warren Buffet have some NetJets company to handle private jets the way Netflix handles DVDs? If Warren Buffet thinks owning your own jet is too expensive, I don't see where Ben "owns 5 thousand dollars" Stein gets off.
posted by pwnguin at 6:28 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where is the Metafilter corporate jet and when do I get a trip out to the West Coast on that beast?
posted by caddis at 6:29 PM on February 18, 2009


Ode to a Private Jet Pilot and Crew
by Rudyard Kipling

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

posted by terranova at 6:32 PM on February 18, 2009


Where is the Metafilter corporate jet and when do I get a trip out to the West Coast on that beast?
Take a number, caddis. Take a number.
posted by Floydd at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2009


There are multiple reasons it might be worthwhile to fly private from a cost-benefit perspective: confidential business calls, bringing an armed security team with you, being able to exercise and/or control the O2 mix while flying to avoid jet lag, reducing the number of CEOs arrested or detained for possession of cocaine.

There's a ton of waste in corporate America, if it's not this it'll be some other status symbol bullshit, but why does this one stick more in people's craws?
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


OMG there are 14,348 people in front of me. If I trade numbers with Jonmc, will he shrink my head?
posted by caddis at 6:47 PM on February 18, 2009


I think that commercial airlines totally sucking ass might have something to do with it.
posted by box at 6:51 PM on February 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


The craw-sticking, that is.
posted by box at 6:51 PM on February 18, 2009


There are so many more important things to bitch at failed-company-CEOs about. Why are we spending our time with this drivel?
posted by jckll at 6:53 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are shitloads of smaller airports that the airlines don't service but that smaller planes can access, and plenty of legitimate reasons to fly to them for business purposes. Especially when the airlines and TSA conspire to treat passengers as terrorist livestock instead of humans.
posted by exogenous at 6:57 PM on February 18, 2009


It seems like there's a lot of symbolic power there, too--one more component of modern rich peoples' total insulation and isolation, even as they count the profits from wrecking all the shit that surrounds us; the embarrassingly wretched excess (think of right-wing-radio talking heads making hay of Al Gore's jet rides); the de facto second-class status, even in first class. It's pretty easy to see private jets as big aluminum tubes full of waste and greed. Fun, too.
posted by box at 6:59 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm not rich at all, and I have to fly commercial all the time. I would LOVE for some taxi service or jet pool or some other business model come about that offered better service (basic service!) than the commercial BS that we have to deal with. I would pay so much more than I do now on commercial... I think jets have a place in the new economy. And I too think that griping about private jets is missing the point in all of this mess. Flying private is not a "treat" -- it's damn civilized. It's what travel should be. Make it viable from a business standpoint and I'm totally in. Does that make me sound free-market-y?
posted by gingembre at 7:45 PM on February 18, 2009


Well, the thing about corporate jets is that if you own one wholesale you have to also own or lease a hangar, a maintenance crew, and often at least two flight crews -- who swap places via commercial jet anyway to relieve each other. And then once you own it you're sort of required to use it as much as possible to keep the per-mile costs as low as you can.

I never hear anything about fractional jets in this context, though. They seem like a financially sensible solution in good times or bad.
posted by dhartung at 8:00 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


ABC News criticizing Obama's "lavish lifestyle" and use of a jet

Then there is the use of two private jets, Boeing 747s better known as Air Force One. And of course the constant security details, drivers, a private chef, a country vacation estate and the rent-free use of a well-known, 132-room mansion called the White House.
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I for one do not want our president to fly commercial.
posted by gingembre at 8:07 PM on February 18, 2009


Fractional jets? That's the difference between a mistress and a whore.
posted by hexatron at 8:07 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


At this point in time, it is an American made and engineered product. Wichita Kansas is laying off aviation folk in a rabid manner. Amusement is watching people cannibalize their brother over who gets a slice of the Obama pie.

Of course, a fan made in a human rights violatior like China costs $12, or an American made last 50+ years Vornado version costs; oh hell with this. Let's all charge down to the Wal-Mart! Yeah, bailout. Isn't that special. And made overseas. Yes, calm pleasantries abound. Ahhh. Bailout.
posted by buzzman at 8:26 PM on February 18, 2009


I have to Nth the quizzical looks at defenses of this kind of behavior.

I mean - what, are they not greedy? They're not working for charity are they? Hey, maybe they're working very very hard. Boo fucking hoo.
There's a difference between busting your ass to put food on the table and put a roof over your kids head and working 18 hour days exploiting loopholes so you can suck money out of people's pockets, bribe congressmen to make the holes bigger and turn their backs on the people they're supposed to represent just so you can get - what, more hookers, blow, another bunch of pools, gold plated helicopter, whatever?

I'm not an undereducated or talentless man, but I made the choice between a fat chuck of bills riding on my hip and spending time with my family and not being a misanthropic grasping reprobate a long time ago.
I dunno about a soul, but whatever it is within me that's connected to the fundamental emotional and human vibrancy isn't worth trading to transport my carcass in some kind of special style.
It's transport, it's just a conveyance.
When we've all got teleporters all this will sound as stupid as a group of Franklins complaining that the nobles have whiter horses and more comfortable carriages. Of course they do. They're exploitive comfort addicted pricks. Almost no one else is that scared of life that they have to amassing that much wealth.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:52 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine,

I am as pro-business as anybody on metafilter. And corporate jet use, when a company is doing poorly, infuriates me because it indicates a total lack of leadership. Let me pick on GM - that company has been losing money for years now, yet Wagoner, Lutz, and other people we've never heard of and would not harass in an airport have been flying around on the corporate fleet, with flunkies and photographers attending them, like they're Eisenhower on V-E day.

If you were a union guy and you witnessed that, how willing would you be to negotiate or make concessions? Most companies talk about incremental improvement and Six Sigma, lean, etc. If you are a regular GM employee, how many of those improvements do you have to come up with to pay for a month of the jet fleet? Part of leadership is setting the example, and the guys at GM just seem clueless about that.

Contrast that with Gerald Arpey, who cut his own pay and those of his execs at American Airlines. Or Bill Gates, who flew commercial - in coach!- until he got hit with a pie in the face and started worrying about security. Or my former CEO who, even when the company was doing really well, would rent a little cramped economy car when he traveled.
posted by txvtchick at 8:55 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a theory that the rise in violent crime, burglary, vandalism etc.

What rise in violent crime? What are you talking about? Violent crime had been going down for decades, although it remains to be seen what happens in response to the downturn.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 PM on February 18, 2009


Especially when the airlines and TSA conspire to treat passengers as terrorist livestock instead of humans.

This is the argument that really irks me. Sure, airport security is annoying, but in all the time I've flown I've never waited more than 20 minutes, 30 minutes tops. Most of the times I fly, I can just walk right through. Yes, it's stupid security theater that they make us take off our shoes, but it's just not that much of a hassle. If anything, it's good blackberry time.

Air taxis and jetpools are great, but maintaining a hanger and maintenance crew so the executives can have their private jet is just so much wankery. Plus, I have a feeling that if some CEOs had to fly commercial, maybe we wouldn't still have to be taking off our shoes.
posted by heathkit at 9:13 PM on February 18, 2009


being able to exercise and/or control the O2 mix while flying to avoid jet lag

Wha?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2009


What rise in violent crime? What are you talking about?

Aw, man. I even snuck in a cowardly disclaimer at the end and still you have a go at me.
AUSTRALIAN violent crime. That's going thru the roof, sizzlechest.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:40 PM on February 18, 2009


Ohhh the FT editorial in the post is really shady. There's been half-page ads recently in the Financial Times newspaper by a small jet manufacturer justifying corporate jets. Something to the effect of "our jets are so cheap, the public will view it as acceptable". Writing editorials that agree with advertisers trips of some alarms.
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:56 PM on February 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Txvtchick, purchasing a private jet seems to be a poor decision in any kind of economy, but operating a private jet that's already been purchased may be warranted if the resale market is particularly depressed.

I'm definitely not going to defend GM execs runaway culture of entitlement, and generally bad business decision making.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2009


operating a private jet that's already been purchased may be warranted if the resale market is particularly depressed.

Excellent point. Sunk cost.

And also props [heh heh - props] to the people who mentioned the time consuming clusterf@ck that commercial travel has become. That hadn't occured to me either.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:06 PM on February 18, 2009


What pisses me is that all my efforts at conservation and environment consciousness are absolutely destroyed by the lifestyles of the ultra-privileged. There are changes they could make that would do more good in one month than all the efforts I make in my entire life.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 PM on February 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck the sunk cost argument... The acquisition is a sunk cost - actually using the birds to schlep around the country isn't near as cost-effective as just flying them once a month for an hour or two to keep them in decent working order until the market gets better and flying your CEOs commercial or fractional.

(You can't just hangar the birds - they'll require some significant maintenance to bring them out of mothballs.)
posted by squorch at 4:41 AM on February 19, 2009


Welcome bigwigs!
posted by up in the old hotel at 8:19 AM on February 19, 2009


Personally, I'd be just fine with high-risk targets flying on their own transport and leaving the airlines to us.

As a shareholder, that is, were I a shareholder, I'd be irritated by having super-expensive executive time spent waiting in the TSA line for a business trip. I'd also object to the true security risks posed to both the executive and the other travellers in a dense airport environment.

Then there's the security details and the entourage. You have to fly those guys, too. I know that this seems superfluous but it isn't. High-profile people are high-profile targets and insurers can insist on private aircraft flight. By the time all of these factors are added, private jet transport for domestic flight starts to make financial sense. Fractional ownership helps the costs.

As a person who worked directly for the CTO/SVP of a major corporation, I observed that it took two full-time people working long hours just to manage the guy's calendar. Admittedly, he traveled more than anyone else in the company but the schedule was almost unbelievably dense and his work was incredibly important to the company. The company had a policy against owning a jet. He ended up personally buying a one sixth share of a Citation X from NetJets and I saw the calendar ease up to the point where only one person was needed to manage it. The change was HUGE. I was convinced. In the first three months that he had the Citation, he logged 77 hours of flight time in the plane. It flies substantially faster than a airliner (US coast-to-coast in four hours at mach .95 or so) but the bigger time savers are the flexible scheduling, the access to smaller airfields and, especially, the private terminals.
posted by bz at 9:06 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Txvtchick, purchasing a private jet seems to be a poor decision in any kind of economy, but operating a private jet that's already been purchased may be warranted if the resale market is particularly depressed.

BrotherCaine, that is a good point. If I had to sell in a down market, then I would indeed sell the jet and write it off as part of restructuring - similar to what companies do with severance, etc. when they lay people off. The other options are to a) continue using them and hope your employees don't notice or b) try to explain it to your employees. I would personally pay the cost of selling the jet in order to stave off employee cynicism.

Also - and I know they're an easy target so this is the last thing I'll write about them - GM has been losing $2k per vehicle for years now. They could have sold the fleet some time ago and made a profit on it.
posted by txvtchick at 10:02 AM on February 19, 2009


I think the TSA Clear program an argument against "waiting in security lines". That was the whole reason behind Clear in the first place, right?
posted by boo_radley at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2009


Then there's the security details and the entourage. You have to fly those guys, too. I know that this seems superfluous but it isn't. High-profile people are high-profile targets and insurers can insist on private aircraft flight.

Bz, I can see it for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, maybe a few others. But most of these guys are simply not that high profile. They do not need the security and in fact may make themselves more of a target with all the extraneous "stuff" that entails. I suspect the security detail is more of a perk and an image additive than a necessity. The folks that are high profile work very hard to stay high profile

As a person who worked directly for the CTO/SVP of a major corporation, I observed that it took two full-time people working long hours just to manage the guy's calendar. Admittedly, he traveled more than anyone else in the company but the schedule was almost unbelievably dense and his work was incredibly important to the company.

Also a good point. I'm not a big believer in cutting back travel because sometimes you have to be there to make things happen. And some of these guys have incredibly hectic schedules. But I'd be very careful about having my company tied too closely to any one high-profile person. And, some of these folks make time in their schedule to give speeches at schools, attend high-profile events, etc. It would be nice if they took time and effort to show leadership to their employees. Like this guy.
posted by txvtchick at 10:05 AM on February 19, 2009


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