Ryder Cup fans taking private jet for just $2,900
Golf-crazy executives set on seeing Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and 22 other top players trade putts at the sport's most anticipated event this weekend found a cheaper way to jet in and out in style.
Hedge-fund managers, the chairman of a FTSE-100 company and a German hotelier are among those tapping a car pool-style plane ride that gets them to the Ryder Cup in Scotland for the day's first drive and home that night for what in the luxury jet world amounts to a bargain-basement 1,800 pounds ($2,900) apiece.
Golf's hottest attraction, which has pitted the cream of American talent against Europe's finest since 1927, is set to draw 250,000 spectators from 96 nations, including almost 3,000 U.S. visitors, according to organizers. With the 2014 dual at Gleneagles on the fringes of the Scottish Highlands, a private jet drops fans off a brief car ride from the course, avoiding the masses traveling via Edinburgh, the nearest main airport.
"The Ryder Cup is the golf tournament I just don't want to miss," said Guy Winterflood, founder of the Letyano application that rewards people for reviewing restaurants and bars, who flew from London for the start of the contest today. "This gives me the flexibility to watch the action from tee-off to end of play and still be back to share an evening meal with my family."
Pooled bookings have proved most popular with those golf aficionados who have demanding day jobs and busy family lives, getting them to the scene of the action without the full cost of private-jet hire. As a bonus, common ground between travelers on event-specific trips can aid bonding and networking.
"What we've done is set up a pop-up flight," said Steffen Fries, senior vice president at jet-charter marketplace Victor Ltd., which Winterflood used. "We take like-minded people, eight of them on a plane, and it comes to an affordable price."
Flights using a Fairchild Dornier 328JET and Beechcraft King Air turboprop will operate between the business terminal at London Luton airport and Dundee, 30 miles from Gleneagles, at times designed to ensure clients can view a full day's play, Fries said. Victor will provide at least six shuttles over the three-day contest, with the price including ground transfers in accredited vehicles, though not tickets to the course.
Traditionally the province of the very rich, private jets have been brought within reach of well-off mainstream travelers thanks to pooling, which helps avoid airport overcrowding and the high charges associated with large amounts of baggage or even the transport of family pets. Clients can include wedding parties, corporate roadshows and members of the music industry.
The nearest major airport to Gleneagles, in the Scottish capital Edinburgh, says the Ryder Cup will help attract hundreds of thousands of travelers for carriers including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., EasyJet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc, which all connect the city with London.
While a similar distance away as Dundee, cars heading north from Edinburgh -- which has United Airlines flights from Chicago, site of the last Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club 10 miles from the midwest city, and American Airlines services from Philadelphia -- must use the busy Forth Road Bridge.
Gleneagles railway station, which serves the course and an adjoining hotel that's held a G8 summit and closed-door meeting of the Bilderberg Group of North American and European business and government chiefs, has no airport links, with trains from central Edinburgh taking about 1 hour 20 minutes on average. The station can be reached direct from London's Kings Cross terminus in 5 hours 38 minutes, with a return ticket costing 136 pounds.
While a private flight to Dundee takes only 1 hour 10 minutes, such a trip could cost 10,000 pounds for a single booking, with savings from pooled flights helping to pare what can otherwise be a hefty bill for spectators who opt to sample fine Scottish cuisine along with the putting.
The most expensive hospitality tickets were priced at 1,750 pounds to watch the tournament's climax on Sunday, with clients served a cooked breakfast, gourmet lunch, afternoon tea and unlimited Champagne at suites located between the eleventh and sixteenth holes. Standard match-day tickets priced at between 120 pounds and 145 pounds were being advertised at 800 pounds yesterday on the Viagogo resale website.
Victor's Hamburg-based hotelier customer hasn't missed a Ryder Cup in more more than 20 years, stretching back to the period when German Bernhard Langer was a mainstay of the European team. The man, who asked not to be named, is making his first visit by private jet after previously traveling via commercial airline, the company said.
Victor connects its 9,700 clients with 120 owners of more than 700 private aircraft in Europe and the U.S., charging commission of between 5 and 10 percent. Three competing price quotes are typically provided within an hour, Fries said.
The company began on the Mediterranean holiday island of Mallorca in 2011 as a reaction to the termination of London flights by BMI, later bought by British Airways. Founder Clive Jackson polled other business-class passengers and determined that there was sufficient demand for a bespoke operation.
"There is none of the hassle," said Alan Wood, who regularly uses the Mallorca service at a cost comparable to a business-class airline flight. "The aircraft comes to the airport, the pilot rings me and says 'We'll be ready for take off in 50 minutes,' and we're whisked through."
Victor offered its first pop-up service to The European Fine Art Fair, or TEFAF, in Maastricht, Netherlands, and has also targeted the Monaco Yacht Show, according to Fries. Knowing that many clients were keen golfers, the company struck a deal with Ryder Cup Travel Services for the Gleneagles contest.
Led by Paul McGinley, the European team are defending champions after winning eight and drawing one of the final-round singles games for a comeback win in Medinah. The hosts can count on four of the world's top five golfers, led by No. 1 McIlroy, and are favored by bookmakers to retain their crown.
Their U.S. rivals, who haven't won the biennial event outside their home country in 21 years, flew to Scotland from Atlanta on Sept. 22. While professional golf stars are among the most prolific users of private jets to shuttle between tournaments, the team under captain Tom Watson arrived in Edinburgh aboard a Boeing Co. 777 hired from British Airways.