Leading private jet company Flexjet has launched a new in-house helicopter division that takes its Succession credentials to a whole new level. Mayfair Times hops on board and makes for Scotland
Words: Jonathan Whiley
Our arrival at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House has all the subtlety of a Donald Trump press conference. We’re in Flexjet’s twin engine, twin-piloted Sikorsky S-76 helicopter – the sort of helicopter reserved for a state visit or Hollywood royalty.
In blinding spring sunshine, its shadow looms large over the hotel’s fairway at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and as a procession of staff wait by the treeline, golfers are eager to catch a glimpse of what they assume to be an A-list celebrity and their entourage. Realising we’re more obscure tech billionaire on half-term holiday material, they are bitterly disappointed.
No matter. Stepping out, I feel like Succession’s Logan Roy returning to his roots. The hotel is magnificent, the welcome incredibly warm and the champagne – the hotel’s own – perfectly chilled.
Parallels with Succession might seem inevitable, but they are made with good reason. Flexjet worked with the HBO on the making of the recent series of the popular show, providing use of their Gulfstream G65 jet and Sikorsky S-76 with its super-sleek interior and room for up to eight passengers.
This is a shiny new string to Flexjet’s bow with the premium jet provider – a leader in the fractional ownership market – recently unveiling a new European in-house private helicopter division; significantly, the first operator in Europe to do so.
“It’s yet another example of what makes our service stand out from our competitors,” says Marine Eugene, Flexjet’s European managing director.
Flexjet has been established in the shared ownership jet market in the US since 1995, but only launched its European HQ – in Mayfair – in 2019 with a ‘Tactical Control Centre’ at Farnborough Airport. Allowing many of the benefits of aircraft ownership but without the unpredictable costs and associated responsibilities, the fractional (shared) model allows owners to buy a proportion of an aircraft’s annual flying hours under management. It’s usually used by those who fly more than 50 hours each year.
The new helicopter division, which they say will initially focus on the UK, follows a similar launch by the company in the northeastern US last year and offers helicopter programmes as a standalone service and extension to existing private jet owners (existing Flexjet Gulfstream G650 owners receive complimentary access to the S-76 chopper).
It’s one the most respected and established super-midsize helicopters on the market and our scenic journey from Newcastle to Scotland (having travelled from London City to Newcastle on a Ruinart-fuelled journey on Flexjet’s Praetor 600) was smoother than any helicopter experience I’ve had and significantly quieter too, thanks to noise-reducing cabin panels.
Reassuringly, the company’s world-class safety standards – a class A operating licence with Flexjet pilots asked to meet exceedingly high criteria, including an average of 5,000 hours of flight time – means that the only worry is spilling champagne as the patchwork quilt of fields below and the sights of Northumberland (in particular Holy Island) drift past below you.
This is travel in a very exclusive and competitive market; Flexjet’s services are used by ultra-high-net-worth clientele and they have prestigious partnerships at events such as the Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz (where the global elite gather annually, flying into Samedan private airport) and Royal Ascot (they are the official private aviation supplier with a Flexjet heliport on-site).
An evening at Prestonfield House illustrates their in-the-know credentials. Arguably Edinburgh’s very best hotel, this characterful five-star country house combines a stellar location next to the city centre with the privacy and seduction of 20 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland.
The history here is quite extraordinary– it was built by architect Sir William Bruce in 1687 on his completion of the Palace of Holyroodhouse for Sir James Dick and remained his family’s private home until 1958, when it became a hotel.
Since 2003 it has been run by renowned Edinburgh restauranteur James Thomson, a gentle, knowledgeable man who regales us with stories of hosting royalty and provides an indication of what is involved in restoring such a unique place to its present-day splendour.
Its extravagant décor and styling will not be to everyone’s taste, but the setting and staff are quite brilliant and will ensure a very memorable stay.
This is all part of Flexjet’s approach to go beyond its transportation duties; to curate a luxury lifestyle and provide unique experiences so that for the time you are in their hands you feel part of a very select and very fortunate group indeed.