College tours by private jet

This is the time high school students in the US visit colleges to figure out which one they want to join. And plane charter firms are giving students special rates, says Paul Sullivan

  • Published 11.09.18
  • a few seconds read

High school students heading back to class this fall have college on their minds. Many juniors, sophomores and even freshmen are already turning their attention toward picking a college. For most of them, a college tour will play a crucial part.

Most will travel with their parents by car to potential colleges, stringing together campuses on a road trip that can take a week or longer. But new luxury services offer to cut down that time by whisking families on a private jet outfitted with college regalia and staffed with a college admissions counsellor. The fees for these services can run up to nearly $60,000 (Rs 43.47 lakh), but the benefits can outweigh the cost. Not only are the private trips more efficient, they can also provide personalised help through the admissions process.

A lot of families find campus tours stressful, said Abby Siegel, a New York college entrance consultant. "As a neutral party, I can be extremely helpful," she said. "If it comes out of my mouth, the children will listen where they might not listen to their parents."

College tours are a growing segment for a luxury travel industry that also caters to wealthy college alumni heading to big events.

FLYING HIGH: (Above) College gear abroad a chartered plane, (top) XOJet’s Bombardier 300 aircraft and (inset) James Henderson, president of commercial operations 

XOJet, a private jet chartering company, plans to transport students and their families to five college hubs: Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New York and Washington. The service is being offered in partnership with Mandarin Oriental hotels and Siegel. The package can top $30,000 (Rs 21.73 lakh) per trip, and can even hit six figures if families move among multiple hubs. Aware of the high price tag, XOJet is pitching its bundled service as less expensive than the individual costs of the flight, hotel and counselling.

"We can help them maximise their time, see the place, meet the admissions team and get a feel for the environment," said James Henderson, president of commercial operations at XOJet. Clients save time at the airport by parking in front of the terminal, skipping security lines and walking straight out to the plane. A packaged trip from New York to Boston would cost a family about $25,000, depending on demand.

An XOJet rival, Magellan Jets, offers a different cost structure. Its college tour package offers 10 hours of flight time, less than its usual increments of 25, 50 and 100 hours customers must buy for general use. The cost is $57,000 (Rs 41.28 lakh), and Magellan works with Top Tier Admissions, a college advisory firm, which will provide an admissions expert at an additional fee.

"This gets them to two to three colleges in a day, and in three to four days, they can look at all these colleges around the country," said Joshua Hebert, the chief executive of Magellan Jets.

En route, students will be given briefing books on each college, which include information like the name of the admissions representative covering their high school and tips on whom to meet and where to go on campus.

On their return to the plane, Magellan provides notebooks from each college so students can write down their thoughts. The company then binds their notes in a book at the end of the trip.

Travelling on private jets is costly, but it may be the most efficient way to tour colleges. It is worth it to people who have more money than free time and no desire to pack into the family car for an interminable drive.