“This could be either one of the greatest things ever,” said a man standing in the pen where private jets are kept at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“Or…” he trailed off. “Not.”
His concern was merited, as, on this clear afternoon last week, we would not actually be going anywhere. There would be no puddle-jumping to Bermuda, no impetuous slingshot to Singapore, no lovers’ jaunt to Paris a la minute. We were getting in a plane for the sake of being in the plane—to take off, circle about, and arrive right back where we started, at Newark International. The arrangement seemed Beckettian, and, existential qualms aside, begged other questions, like: Is it really worth it to go out to Newark to undergo pat-downs, endure rote security speeches, and, well, to be in New Jersey?
It helped that our ride was a little more tricked-out than your average commuter plane. The Four Seasons Jet was introduced this April, and makes a Gulfstream look like a model plane built from a toy kit. A full-size Boeing 757, the FSJ is thoughtfully absent of all 233 seats usually crammed into such a plane, replaced by 52 super-plush elephantine clouds where you can rest fully reclined. Dom Perignon, Petrossian caviar, Bulgari toiletries, and iPads come with the price: $119,000 for a three-week trip. (The hotel chain’s first foray into air travel is part of a partnership with TCS World Travel, which will offer bespoke trips aboard the FSJ to the likes of the Great Barrier Reef and the plains of Serengeti.)
“This is going be like a booze cruise, but 30,000 feet in the air,” said one of the attendees, the majority of whom seemed to be brand ambassadors, Four Seasons team members, or travel writers. Champagne was there waiting for us as we climbed up the stairs into the all-black vessel, its paint job sticking out quite prominently on a lot crammed with the more demure white playthings of billionaires. And as we got comfy in the big chairs and let the cabin’s purple glow bathe us as we lifted off, it became clear that, yes, this was superior flight. Takeoff was lovely. At least one reporter was really enjoying Taylor Swift’s “1989” off an iPad through some high-tech Bose headphones. Had there been mewling babies onboard, he would not have heard them.
And as for the fine dining, there was no caviar, though the array of satays, tarts, and sushi offered beat any airplane food, if not quite reaching the level of destination restaurants to which most presumed FSJ passengers would be jetting off toward. Granted, the cooks are preparing this stuff in cramped quarters.
“It’s like Top Chef every night in this thing,” said Kerry Sear, the executive chef onboard. He explained that FAA regulations prevent him from using an open flame, which at the time struck us as an appalling restriction for a cook. (Now that we’re safely on the ground and sober, banning open flames on aircraft seems rather sound of mind.)
After two hours in the air, while sort of going around in circles, it appeared that we would be heading back. A Four Seasons executive plopped down across from us as we were making the descent.
“The air traffic control was talking to us, and they asked, ‘Where’s the destination?’” he said. He seemed very excited to relay the punchline. “And then they realized there was no destination.”
“The journey is the destination,” we replied.
“Yes!” he said. “I love it when people get it. The journey is the destination.”
A few minutes later, a voice came over the intercom.
“This is your captain speaking,” the voice said. “About to land in Newark. The temperature there is … pretty much the same as it was before.”