Luxury cruises

The maiden flight of luxury charter Crystal Skye will cost passengers US$45,000/seat

Genting Hong Kong is convinced its new bespoke private jet service will defy current travails in the commercial passenger airline market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 7:01pm

Leisure giant Genting Hong Kong, which owns luxury cruise line operator Crystal Cruises, is looking to carve a profitable new niche in its industry, following the maiden flight from the city of its uber-luxury Crystal Skye private jet tour service during China’s “Golden Week” holiday.

“This is part of Genting Hong Kong’s strategic plan to drive the luxury travel market through the Crystal brand,” Kent Zhu Fuming, the president of subsidiary Genting Cruise Lines, told the South China Morning Post.

The inaugural itinerary of Crystal Skye – a fully customised Boeing 777-200LR aircraft that accommodates just 86 first-class guests – will cover an eight-night safari in Nairobi and a trip to the islands of Tahiti that will set back its customers a cool US$45,000 per passenger.

“We are anticipating an overwhelming response from the region ... for this extraordinary new travel option,” said Zhu, adding that private one-on-one meetings with prospective clients had been conducted over the past two months to gauge their interest.

Genting Hong Kong, part of the Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group, is managing the bespoke luxury airline charter in the Asia-Pacific. It acquired United States-based Crystal Cruises for US$550 million in 2015.

The company’s heady optimism for its new Crystal Skye AirCruises business defies the troubled situation in the commercial airline passenger market.

Ailing Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways, for example, is slashing jobs as part of a three-year restructuring after it lost HK$575 million last year due to intense competition, as well as higher fuel and operational costs.

Zhu pointed out that Crystal Skye AirCruises is targeting “a niche luxury clientele who are less impacted by the economy than most consumers”. Those include a growing number of affluent mainland Chinese and Indian customers, he said.

We are anticipating an overwhelming response from the region ... for this extraordinary new travel option
Kent Zhu Fuming, the president of subsidiary Genting Cruise Lines

According to an industry report from travel technology provider Amadeus, the mainland’s outbound luxury travel market, and its counterpart in India, are forecast to grow, respectively, at 12.2 per cent and 12.8 per cent annually on average until 2025.

Those compare favourably against the estimated global average of 6.2 per cent annually in the same period, the report said.

Annual household luxury travel spending on the mainland has averaged 420,000 yuan (US$62,178), said Zhu, citing recent data from Hurun Research, which covers so-called high net worth individuals on the mainland.

He said the target customers of Crystal Skye are high net worth individuals – defined as having investable assets of US$1 million or more – and their families, as well as large companies.

On the mainland, there are about a million such high net worth individuals and 5.1 million across the Asia-Pacific as of 2015, according to data from the Capgemini Wealth Report.

Crystal Skye’s maiden journey will depart from Hong Kong on September 30, in time for China’s seven-day national holiday that starts on October 1. It will be available for charters with bespoke itineraries around the world.

Its crew includes 10 butlers, a mixologist, a head chef, a chief purser and two pilots. The aircraft features a separate social area, stand-up bar and lounge seating.