Up in the Air: Travel Habits of the Wealthy


Kateryna Muravyova | March 03, 2017

The rise of private aviation has created a new opportunity for luxury brands looking to target the world’s wealthiest.

Between 2005 and 2015, Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (those with a net worth of $50 million or more) grew by a whopping 60%, and a further 41% increase is expected by 2025. This means that the number of those who can afford literally anything they could dream up, will have doubled in just 20 years.  

This mere percent of a percent of the global population controls over half of the world’s wealth and makes up the primary group of “high-fliers” and “jet-setters.” Making about 50 trips a year (over 110 flights of different duration), they practically live on airplanes. Travel is favored by a solid 31% of the world’s billionaires and comes 2nd after Philanthropy in the list of their lifestyle passions, interests and hobbies.

These individuals are elusive and demanding. Trusting mainly in word-of-mouth recommendations within their circles. So how does a business that caters to the wealthy, capture the attention of this hard-to-catch audience?

Private air travel offers a solution.

The Rise of Private Aviation

The wealth accumulation trend is reflected in the evolutionary dynamics of private aviation. According to Bombardier, their global business fleet increased by 80% from 2000 to 2014 and expanded geographically too.

Around the year 2000, 80% of private jet traffic originated in the US, but times have changed. Though the US is still home to half of the world’s billionaires, today North America houses only about half of global jet movements, mostly concentrated around New York, California, Miami and Palm Beach.

Europe follows with an average of 50,000 departures monthly with passengers mostly shuffling between Paris, Geneva, Nice, London, and Zurich.

The Middle East is the 3rd biggest and the fastest growing in the world market. The average private jet owner here is 5 years younger and has a jet 3 times more expensive then his/her global peer. With about 40,000 aircraft movements per year, Saudi Arabia is the region’s undeniable leader.

The Busiest Private Air Terminals

Paris’s Le Bourget is Europe’s busiest single private airport with 49,000 movements in 2016. London offers a choice of 13 different airports and a combined annual of around 90,000 movements, which make it the city with the highest volume of private jet operations. Geneva attracts about 183,000 passengers per year and is recognized as Europe’s number 3.

In the summer months, however, all three above yield to Nice. With its 24 hour access and ability to handle jets of all sizes, it operates the bulk of the annual volume from May to September. Despite the continuous decline of positions of Moscow Vnukovo, Nice remains its key pairing destination and therefore - the best location to target Russian clientele.

Sun-filled Mediterranean resorts also drive significant traffic. Having reached over 30 private jet landings daily, Ibiza made it to Europe’s Top 20 last year. Cannes, Palma de Mallorca and Olbia are also showing a positive trend.

In the Middle East, two Dubai airports sieve together about 50,000 UHNW passengers per year, which equals the accumulated volume of Riyadh and Jeddah. Given the climate, many movements happen May to August, with January and October also considered high intensity months.

Mapping Private Travel’s Hot Events

The travel patterns of the wealthy follow a rather pre-defined social calendar of art, sport, and business events.

US traffic magnets include the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, The Masters Golf Tournament, and Art Basel Miami.  Super Bowl 2017 alone was estimated to attract 1,100 aircrafts, which makes nearly 10% of the country’s total private fleet. Thanksgiving displays an all-times boost, Aspen is popular in winter and Palm Springs rocks the summer months.

European equivalents include film festivals (in Cannes and Venice), motor racing (in Monaco and Italy), art fairs (Art Basel and Frieze London), and sporting and recreation events (such as the French Open and Monaco Yacht Show). On the business side, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland is an annual headliner, with an influx of about 1,700 jets. The May trio of Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix and French Open keeps the airports of the French Riviera busy with a combined 6,000 movements.

As Arab and Asian markets mature, more events are likely to be added to the list. The Middle East expects the boost of jet landings with EXPO 2020 in Dubai and the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.  Art Basel HK is also picking up.

Bespoke Marketing: Private Travel Offers Unique Advertising Opportunities

Image Courtesy of AdLux

So back to the original question, how to best connect with a demanding audience of wealthy travelers? Good news, private air terminals offer opportunities.

One of the most popular solutions is advertising placements, including video – either on the plasma screens in the lounges or on the specially built video walls. Another frequently offered medium is represented by the back-lit billboards of different sizes and formats (single/ double-sided), which are located along the transit route.

Interaction with the airport facilities is mostly managed via specialized agencies. Ariana Sellefyan, Managing Director of ADLUX, a trusted intermediary between brands and the airport management comments, “Not all airports are open to advertisers. Some eagerly collaborate, others refuse to consider the opportunity.The reasons are different: a simple lack of space, the intention to create an atmosphere of absolute privacy, or the attempt to avoid diplomatic conflicts as some of the operator’s clients are the CEOs of competitive high-end brands. Most agree that their business is planes, not marketing.”

Prices for featuring a brand’s video can range from $3,000 to $20,000 per month. Backlit billboard spans from $4,500 to $25,000 per month and in some exceptional cases of dominant branding, the estimate can go as far as $40,000 and beyond. Some terminals offer the opportunities for product showcase, which depending on the format can be priced from $4,000 to $30,000 per month.

Considering the small sizes of private aviation terminals, advertising positions are few and given the interest of hard luxury brands to the high-share-of-voice locations, they are often pre-booked well in advance, sometimes years ahead. Brands like De Grisogono, Vacheron Constantin, Ulysse Nardin, Graff, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Harry Winston, Chopard and Richard Mille leverage the format. In ADLUX’s case, they also help  with the installation of a brand’s proprietary displays, as they did for Cartier in Jeddah’s private jet terminal.

Ms. Sellefyan noted cultural differences in how wealthy individuals from different backgrounds regard their time in private air terminals. “Saudi Arabian clients tend to stay longer in the waiting area. They’re not as often rushed, and enjoy hanging out in the lounges with tea and dates, and see it as an occasion to spend time with friends or family.”

Print media, found in lounges, offers an opportunity as well. Elite Traveler and PrivatAir are often on-site. The best bet for those targeting on-board presence is advertising or editorial partnership with the magazines published by the operators. For example, AIR is an official magazine of the conglomerate of private jet service providers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and represents an efficient way to reach UHNW on-board of not only chartered, but also many privately-owned aircrafts.

Although options for capturing the attention of wealthy individuals in the airports may seem limited and requiring a substantial investment, we hope that further development of private aviation industry will offer luxury brands new creative ways to generate high ROI and to build long-term connection with their clients.  

Arts | Data | Travel | UHNW