In February 2015, Four Seasons started their World Tour Packages that featured travel on their own luxury private jet. This was no normal Boeing 757-200; this plane was specially designed for Four Seasons and included 52 lie-flat seats and meals prepared onboard by an executive chef.
This plane would whisk travelers on around-the-world itineraries, visiting iconic landmarks and staying at world-class Four Seasons hotels along the way. The initial response from bloggers like Ben from One Mile at a Time was skepticism about who this plane and these trips were for:
And to some degree I have to wonder how much of a market there is for this. Millionaires probably couldn’t reasonably afford this, while billionaires would presumably want a more tailored experience than a month-long journey with 50 other people and no flexibility — they can just get their own jet. Maybe they’re going after “poor” hundred millionaires?
A year later, Ben wrote another article asking if the Four Seasons plane was overrated and questioning its long term viability:
But personally I’d be surprised if this business model works long term or is expanded. I’m guessing some high end travelers are trying it once out of curiosity, but long term do you really want to drop that kind of cash on such a “rigid” trip, when you could ultimately fly better airline products and have a more customized experience for less?
Well, here we are in 2019 and Four Seasons has announced they’re getting a new plane, an Airbus A321-LR, which will go into service for the trips in 2021. So I guess they’re doing OK. But how?
I was lucky enough to get to talk to someone who’s been on a Four Seasons trip. They were nice enough to share with me the pictures from their trip and even let me read the personal journal they wrote while away (yes, people still write in notebooks, and this leather-bound book was specially provided to guests by Four Seasons for just that reason).
Let me apologize now for what’s missing from this post. I’m sure that most of you, like me, would love to see tons of pictures of the inside of the airplane, along with all the meals they were served, as well as pictures of every hotel room. When I looked through the pictures, I found almost none of that. While disappointed, that was a key for me to understand the appeal of this trip to those who go on it.
The people who can afford this trip have already flown on fancy planes in first class before. They’ve stayed at five-star hotels and eaten at the Michelin star restaurants all around the world. That’s not why they’re going. The appeal is right in the name of the trip. Experience.
The trip the people I talked to went on is called Timeless Discoveries. This 24-day trip started in Los Angeles, ended in London and covered the following locations:
- Los Angeles (The Beverly Wilshire)
- Kona, Hawaii (Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu
- Bora Bora (Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora)
- Sydney, Australia (Four Seasons Hotel Sydney)
- Bali, Indonesia (Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan)
- Thailand (stay at either Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai or Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle)
- Mumbai, India (Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai)
- Prague, Czech Republic (Four Seasons Hotel Prague)
- London, England (Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane)
That’s a bunch of flying around the world.
From the map, you might notice some stops along the way that aren’t on the itinerary, such as AKL and TZX (That’s Trabzon airport in Turkey, if you’re wondering). I can only imagine those stops were necessary due to the range of the plane. When reading the trip notes, due to a strong tailwind they were able to fly direct from BOM-PRG, one of the perks when you are on a private jet.
I noticed right away that one of the major gripes about the plane, when it was announced, was the 2-2 seating arrangements and how the seats weren’t any better than what you’d find in commercial business class.
I mean, this plane doesn’t even have an IFE system. You’re given an iPad with all the information about your trip, which you can also load with your own content or watch movies or TV they provide (I guess streaming) on the jet. You do get to keep the iPad and the Bose QC25 headphones provided at the end of the trip 🙂
What no one thought of is that the longest flight would be about 5 1/2 hours. There are no red-eye flights or 16-hour trips. Everything is planned for maximum comfort.
Boarding at the airport isn’t through the terminal. For most of the flights, passengers were escorted directly to the plane.
I’m sure they had access to the Private Suite when departing LAX, which could have made it feel like you’re not even leaving from the zoo of an airport, but more like from a private airfield.
Here’s a note from the first day and welcome dinner:
Arrived at Beverly Wilshire late afternoon. Quick change and a lovely cocktail and dinner party at the hotel. Met some of the other 39 guests and staff. Room was large and well-appointed. Dinner was lovely with Dom Perignon as the house champagne and Newton chardonnay.
The trip is almost all-inclusive. Here’s how it’s described by Four Seasons in the trip documents:
All meals are included, from the welcome dinner in Los Angeles through breakfast in London. At most destinations, one group dinner is planned that may feature local entertainment or highlight a landmark while you dine. On other evenings you will have the opportunity for a la carte dining. In-room dining is included for breakfast each morning and for lunch or dinner when there is not a group meal. If you choose to skip a group meal then you will be responsible for the cost of your meal.
Personal expenses may include phone and fax charges, laundry, shopping, shipping and the cost of liquor while not onboard the jet.
Four Seasons leaves nothing out for guests on these trips. It’s intended to be a once in a lifetime experience. Special surprises are everywhere. Once you get to the first hotel, (almost) everything is taken care of, like a helicopter tour in Hawaii where you just happen to run across some whales:
On the trip from Hawaii, guests start to settle into the vibe of the trip. Here’s a snippet about the ride to Bora Bora and arrival at the hotel.
We were spoiled once again on our home away from home “Four Seasons Jet.” Dom Perignon, French Puligny-Montrachet (wine) and a four-course lunch. Yum.
Our first impression of the hotel was spectacular. The rooms on the water are as beautiful as the advertisements. We were upgraded to a suite with a private pool because of some minor issue (our name was misspelled) LOL.
Imagine relaxing in your overwater bungalow suite with private pool after going for a Wave Runner tour in Bora Bora:
When arriving in Sydney, they had a special guest at the welcome dinner
We had a cocktail reception in the lobby bar with a Koala Bear. It was quite cute and it was a nice treat. We then had a group dinner which was with stations and wine was good as well. As usual, we closed the place.
The next day included sightseeing over Sydney in a sea plane:
On the way to Bail, the pilot made sure they got their money’s worth.
We made a flyover at 7,000 feet on route to see the holy mountain, Ayers Rock. Uluru is the current name which was the ancient name
Arriving in Bali, they checked into the hotel. This room must have been nice because it’s one of the only ones to get a separate mention in the journal.
Our room was built into the side of the mountain overlooking the river. We had a large outdoor pool and a beautiful view of the mountains.
An optional part of the trip was going to train with professionals in the ways of riding and caring for an elephant when visiting the elephant camp in Chiang Rai:
If you want to visit the elephant camp, there’s only one way, no matter how much your trip costs.
We had a one-hour drive to our camp upon arrival in Chiang Rai. We were brought into town where we took individual boats to the camp. The boats were wood with engines made out of old car engines. The river was narrow and fairly shallow so God willing we would have made it to shore. LOL.
When you’re staying at the Four Seasons tent camp, I think this is even a step above glamping.
The Four Seasons Hotel was as usual but a well-appointed tent. It was a permanent tent with beam ceilings, heat, AC, WiFi, no television. Luckily, we were near the restaurant and lobby as it could have been up to a two-mile walk. We had a delicious dinner of lamb and fish. Dinner was with six others on our trip.
Hardly anyone gets to take a side trip on the way to Mumbai to stop at Agra airport (I bet not many people have this dot on their map since it’s a military airport), but Four Seasons guests do.
Landing at a military airbase in India was actually quite frightening. We were surrounded by machine-gun armed guards. The bus (full size) was a 30-minute ride to a gorgeous hotel…… After a snack at the hotel, we went by golf cart to the Taj Mahal.
Here’s a glimpse into what makes this trip so exclusive:
I’m glad that I was able to see the site but would not have unless I was on this trip. The conventional way to get to the site is a 4-hour bus ride one way from the next nearest airport. After visiting the site we reboarded our plane for a two-hour flight to Mumbai.
It’s amazing to read what little things during a trip that people will seem to focus on. Like this tidbit about breakfast at the hotel in Mumbai:
At this hotel, I opted for croissants and fruit. I don’t understand why our croissants at home can’t taste this good. After all, it is India.
Note: The trip above has changed slightly. Instead of going to Mumbai after the Taj Mahal, now you fly onward to Dubai for four nights.
After a few days in India, they headed off to the last big stop of the trip, Prague:
The actual trip ended in London with a one night stay at the Four Seasons London Park Lane. The notes from the night echo the feeling when we’re at the Farewell Dinners for our Adventures by Disney trips:
It was a very special evening as we all became friends and were sad to leave one another. We had a buffet dinner in typical British style. We sat with all the single ladies so DH was in good company. The surprise entertainment was a Beatles tribute band, We danced the night away to Beatles tunes. DH even got to sing. Of course he did!!!!
After reading all of the notes of the trip (and there were plenty), I got it. Part of the appeal is not having to do any planning. Everything is thought out for you. No worrying about booking hotels, flights or making itineraries. While we might like the challenge of booking a trip like this, we’re not normal 🙂 This trip also includes the ease and access that money allows. Want a side trip to the Taj Mahal? OK. Private airport transfers. Dropped off right at the plane. No worrying about your luggage, everything is covered. Meals at the Four Seasons every night, included. Entertainment and dinner shows. Want to go on Sydney Bridge Climb today? Done.
You’re being waited on and looked after for the entire time you’re away. Oh, and if you need medical care there’s an independent physician traveling with the group who can help with upper respiratory or gastrointestinal problems, which the Four Seasons warns can be common when going on trips like this.
The final appealing thing about this trip that you miss when just looking at the hard product (hotel and plane) and the soft product (people waiting on you 24/7) is the sense of camaraderie you build when traveling with people for a long trip. In our experience with our Adventures by Disney trips, which are also group tours, it takes a few days but eventually, people start to become social. Everyone on this trip has at least one thing in common with everyone else: they all can afford to go on this type of trip. So you start to mingle, sit together at breakfast. Talk over group dinners and then go to hang out at the lounge after dinner. The jet is an extension of the trip. It’s not meant to be an isolation chamber where you can disappear. It’s a place to further get to know those in your group. If you’ve never experienced it, I can’t truly explain how you can become friends with people over the course of a few days, or in the case of this trip, weeks.
So how much does this level of luxury cost?
Upcoming trips vary in price $147,000 to $167,000 per person (Double Occupancy)
Was it worth it? I’ll leave you with the final notes from the journal.
We are both looking forward to going home but honestly we are so very blessed to have experienced this trip of a lifetime. God willing maybe we will do another one again.
P.S. They’ve now already booked another trip.
I have to close by thanking the guests on this trip who provided me with all of the pictures and quotes for this article. Letting me page through your memories means so much to me and I’m so appreciative that you trusted me to share details about your trip with everyone.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary