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For LI charter jet firms, a most wonderful time of the year

Demand for exclusive air travel and extravagant customer requests are strong during the holidays.

The interior of an Embraer Legacy, owned by

The interior of an Embraer Legacy, owned by Alerion Aviation, at Republic Airport in Farmingdale Dec. 20, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The holiday season brings soaring sales — and extravagant customer requests — to Long Island companies that charter flights on private jets.

Demand is so high for chartered jets at this time of year that “every single plane we own is in the air,” said Adam Katz, founder of Farmingdale-based charter business Talon Air, which has 25 private jets and plans next year to expand to 36.

Money is no object for many of these holiday travelers, industry officials say.

One client chartered a jet to fly a cat to London, said Bob Seidel, CEO of Alerion Aviation, which has headquarters in Farmingdale and West Palm Beach, Florida.

“The cat was the only passenger,” Seidel said. “She wanted her daughter to have her pet for the holidays.”

Alerion charges $3,200 per flight hour (two-hour minimum per day) for a mid-sized jet seating eight passengers. Larger jets, seating 16 passengers, cost about $6,000 an hour.

About two dozen companies that fly charter jets or act as brokers for charter flights are headquartered on Long Island, according to Dun & Bradstreet. Besides Talon and Alerion, two of the largest, they include East Hampton Airline, Ponderosa Air, Silver Stream Aviation and Northeastern Aviation.

Private jet charter companies use Long Island airports in East Hampton, Farmingdale, Islip and Westhampton Beach, said Daniel Hirschhorn, co-founder of Ronkonkoma-based Luxury Aircraft Solutions, which connects passenger clients with private jet charters.

Luxury Aircraft Solutions has grown from brokering about 25 flights in 2011 to about 500 in 2017, Hirschhorn said.

Unusual requests are the norm, he said.

“One of our clients was part of a royal family from the Middle East,” Hirschhorn said. “We were asked to create a bedroom for the princess, a whole separate area with a door for privacy, and spell out her name on the bed with rose petals.”

Charter jet companies tend to be small, privately held and profitable, said Jacqueline Rosser, staff liaison for the National Air Transportation Association’s Air Charter Committee.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is easily the busiest time for the industry, Rosser said. Only the Super Bowl weekend in February and the week of the Masters golf tournament in April come close.

The companies’ “target audience is business-class professionals, private individuals, who are usually wealthier people and are seeking that extra level of privacy, comfort, customization and service, they can’t find elsewhere.”

Arik Kislin, a Kings Point resident who works in real estate development and owns a second home in Boca Raton, Florida, said he charters flights about 10 times a year. He’s been a client of Alerion for more than a decade.

“Airports are chaotic,” Kislin said. “It’s hard to beat the time value of flying private.

“And when you’re flying with kids, grandmothers or nannies, it makes more [financial] sense,” he said. The price of chartering a private jet can equal the price of six first-class tickets on a commercial airplane, he said.

“Plus, you know how they say the best deals are made on the golf course? Well, I find that the best deals are actually made on the private plane.”

Talon Air’s Katz, a certified charter captain and flight instructor, started the business in 2001. Clients charter about 100 flights on the Island every month.

The company employs 150, including pilots, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics and cleaning crew staff, Katz said.

“We basically offer any amenity you can think of that’s legal and safe,” he said. “You name it, we’ve done it. We’ve even had a couple who had their wedding on the flight.”

At Alerion, “Other expenses can include catering, in-flight telephone use, security details on request, and the options go on,” Seidel said.

For a family traveling with children, staff at Alerion set up a 4-foot-tall Christmas tree on a plane, lights and ornaments included, and placed a few wrapped toys underneath it.

“We act as a concierge, so the sky is the limit in terms of what we may be asked to arrange,” Seidel said.

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