The word unique is often overused and misused, and perhaps one of you will correct me, but Crystal’s new Boeing 777-200LR Crystal Skye strikes me as unique in a couple ways.
It has first class style seats with rows spread 73.5 inches apart in a 2x2x2 configuration (see seating plan below), and while it has very high-end luxury finishes, you can find other aircraft for charter with similar seating dimensions, albeit in narrow body 757s. At the same time, there are a number of widebody jets on the charter market, so while a 777 is comparatively larger than the 787s and 767s out there, it’s not unique just from that angle.
What does make Crystal Skye special in my opinion is that it offers 88 flat bed seats, all in a like set-up giving it about 75% more capacity than the 757s you see being used for A&K, TCS and Four Seasons luxury flights. That means if you had a group larger than 50 including your support team, or didn’t want to fill the plane completely, you would have to charter an aircraft with recliners instead of flat bed seats or a commercial airliner.
If you charter a commercial airliner, then you are stuck figuring out who gets the first class seats, who you are going to put in business class seats and who gets stuck in economy, even if you were giving them the entire row. In all cases, aircraft that I’ve seen generally didn’t have much, if any area, to congregate and socialize so you lose the communal aspect of these type of flights. Crystal Skye, on the other hand, offers an expansive bar, couches and six tables seating six each in the forward zone. You can even set up tastings in the rear galley, which serves as the aircraft’s main kitchen and is quite large. In other words, it’s a bit like a flying hospitality suite.
Because of its configuration, Crystal Skye is a different beast than Deer Jet’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has private staterooms, lounge style seating with living room and dining areas, but holds 40 passengers. In other words, while it is a lovely plane, it is better suited for a 10-20 person family group whereas Crystal Skye is perfect if you are bringing a group of say 40 or more to a destination wedding, celebration, product launch or perhaps if your company is sponsor of a major event like the Olympics or World Cup where you want to bring top customers, distributors, dealers, retailers, etc in and out in style. There are no showers as with up to 88 passengers, it wouldn’t be possible to have a set-up where everyone would be able to partake. It speaks to why Skye is so well suited to when you have a group where everyone is a VIP, but you don’t want to sacrifice the high-level of service associated with VIP configured airliners.
One of the selling points is the service provided by Crystal, an award-winning luxury cruise line that has a top-level reputation when it comes to service. Trained cabin crew speaks 35 different languages.
Broadly, think $55,000 per hour, with plentiful variables.
For example, you can have different levels of meal service, with everything served on a single tray or where tables are handset, clockwise of course. Whether you want to serve hamburgers or caviar, lobster and filet mignon will vary your budget. Do you want locally sourced ingredients or luxury ingredients that may have to be flown into the departure airport. Again, anything and everything is possible.
Each galley is equipped with the latest steam and convection ovens (a total of nine), Iacobucci espresso machines, a fully-stocked chef’s cart for special requests and baking, frothers, blenders and specialized chef’s tools. South African Executive Chef Chef Francois Van Zyl, who has experience on the ground in the U.S., Europe, and his home country and in the air as part of Etihad Airways award-winning in-flight chef program, will be onboard and with his team work with charter customers to develop menus. Because of the galley size, it’s possible to offer your guests on-demand dining, which is a nice touch in a large group.
The wines and spirits that are served aboard is also your call. Crystal can stock whatever you want or just organize it with basic direction. There is a 200-bottle wine cellar and more storage space if needed. Each of your guests gets a personal profile, so allergies and preferences can be noted. Crystal will even provide custom leather luggage placed on each passenger’s seat at an additional cost, high-end swag bags filled with whatever you want. Of course, you can provide your own.
You can also customize in-flight entertainment with your own TV channel and stock your brochures and collateral material. Let’s say you are the CEO of Burger King, Crystal will happily outfit its in-flight butlers in your orange and yellow uniforms if that’s what you want. Anything is possible, and of course that, in addition to where you are going will impact the cost. If you happen to be the CEO of Neiman Marcus or Christian Dior, perhaps you want to use the plane for a high flying runway show for your best couture customers. With double-wide aisles, there is plenty of space.
Two of Crystal’s three signed charter contracts represent the diverse nature of missions Skye will likely see. One is a charter for the National Hockey League. The other is an UHNW individual who also chartered one of Crystal’s floating assets for a celebration and is bringing friends and family to the vessel and back aboard the 777. Because Crystal puts together shore excursions, including private access, for guests on its ships, it can also put together an entire custom itinerary for you. Since it’s all in-house, it can turn around quotes in a week or less.
In terms of ferry fees, you only pay to get Skye to your starting point. In North America, when it’s not flying, it will be based in Victorville, California. In Europe, it will be in Malta.
If you want to go from Chicago to Vienna and take over the Crystal Mozart river vessel for 10 days, you pay the ferry charge from Victorville to Chicago and then, of course, the flight to Vienna. Whether or not Skye stays in Vienna while you are on your cruise doesn’t impact your rate. When your group gets off the Mozart and flies back to Chicago, you only pay for the Vienna to Chicago leg.
Crystal Skye is operated by Comlux Aviation and registered in Aruba so it would need to get a waiver to fly domestic U.S. legs, although that is possible. Comlux, which is based in Zurich, specializes in VIP airliner management and operations, and currently, shows a VIP Boeing 767 and Airbus ACJ319 as part of its managed charter fleet as well as several Global Express and a Gulfstream G650.
Crystal is a division of Genting Hong Kong, which has a number of private jets, however, Crystal specifically also offers a Bombardier Global Express XRS, currently getting an update with faster WiFi during its C-Check. It will be flying again by October. There is also a Boeing 787 that is for sale, and its CEO Edie Rodriguez says if the charter market for the 777 is as strong as she expects, she would look at adding a sister for Skye.
Crystal’s 777 is less than five years old and started life running commercial flights for Air Austral (with 388 seats), although one would never guess when you walk around inside it as we did. If you believe former Delta CEO Richard Anderson, the acquisition cost is quite reasonable should Crystal decide to expand.
The remake was done by Greenpoint Technologies, which has quite a bit of experience in VIP and Head of State airliners, including a Boeing 747-8VVIP. An expert who hasn’t seen Skye said based on the description Crystal may have spent $50 to $75 million and possibly much more on outfitting it. Executives from Crystal declined to comment.
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Number of Seats: 88 (customized from standard 380)
Wing span: 212 ft. 60 in. / 64.80 m
Overall length: 169 ft. 9 in. / 49.10 m
Cabin Height: 7 ft. 2 in. / 2.20 m
Cruise Speed: Mach 0.84
Top Speed: 587 mph; cruising speed is normally 550 mph
Maximum Altitude: 43,100 ft.; typical cruising altitude is 38,000-40,000 ft.
Maximum Range: 10,000 nautical miles / Range capability 19.5 hours
Contact is Richard Ziskind, Vice President and Managing Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +1.310.203.4412