Cool: Private A340 Flying Brits To Barbados In Style

Filed Under: Travel

If you’re in the UK and have £7500 burning a hole in your pocket, here’s a cool way to spend it…

New charter service between UK and Barbados

Blue Sky Luxury and Caledonia Jets have partnered to offer a new once weekly charter flight between London and Barbados.

Barbados is a popular vacation destination for Brits, and under normal circumstances there would be many nonstop scheduled flights between London and Bridgetown. However, those aren’t operating at the moment (though they will be resuming soon).

That’s where this new charter service comes in. A once weekly flight charter flight is being operated by an A340-300, for anyone looking to travel between the two places. This flight departs from the private terminal at Stansted, and operates directly to Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados.

Weekly service will commence as of July 8, 2020, and you can book this for either £5000 one-way or £7500 roundtrip.

A look at this all business class A340-300

This service is being operated by charter company Air X, and specifically by an A340-300 with the registration code 9H-BIG. This is a 20 year old aircraft that spent most of its life flying for SriLankan Airlines.

Now the plane has just 100 business class seats, along with a couple of couches in the back of the plane, which is pretty cool.

It looks like the plane actually features two types of business class seats, which is a bit odd. There are angled business class seats in part of the plane…

Then there are also fully flat seats in other parts of the plane.

I find that to be interesting — these are both business class seats that SriLankan Airlines used to offer on different planes, so it seems like they just installed different types of seats on this aircraft to keep the costs down.

I would imagine they’ll just randomly be assigning people seats, with no price difference for those who will get fully flat seats vs. angled seats?

Clearly service will be a focus with these flights, and you can expect service to be similar to how it was in the pre-coronavirus era. Passengers also each have a 90kg baggage allowance.

How COVID-19 testing will be performed

Here’s another interesting wrinkle to this service. Visiting Barbados requires having a negative COVID-19 PCR rest within 72 hours of departure.

Fortunately the logistics of that have been worked out by the charter service. The day before departure, passengers can check into a designated hotel near the airport.

Passengers can relax in their room, and then a healthcare professional will come and carry out a PCR COVID-19 test. Passengers will then be asked to remain in their rooms while the test is processed in a nearby lab, and the following morning results will be provided.

The cost for the test will be £300 per passenger, plus the cost of the hotel room, and any room service ordered.

Bottom line

It’s cool to see a creative concept like this, offering an all business class service between London and Bridgetown in this challenging time. It’s also helpful that they’ve taken care of all the logistics, including being able to get a coronavirus test before departure, so that you can enter Barbados without issue.

I still question how big the market is for this, though. Obviously this is only for really wealthy people, given the price tag.

Can they really fill enough seats every week in both directions to make this profitable? On top of that, they’ll soon be facing competition on the route — British Airways will be resuming this route as of July 18, while Virgin Atlantic will be resuming this route as of August 1.

I will be curious to see just how many of these services end up operating.

What do you make of this transatlantic private jet concept?

(Tip of the hat to @PatBateman23)

  1. Very confusing from the photos… Some photos appear to be fully flat seats with an ottoman. Others appear to be angled-flats with no ottoman. Both types of seats were used by Sri Lankan, so did they just buy a mix-match of the 2 seats and install them on this aircraft?

    Either way, it seems like a huge rip-off for an experience that seems to be marketing itself as a luxury private experience but in reality is no different to flying BA/VS.. albeit a smaller J cabin, better seats, better aircraft and better schedules/frequency on the latter.

    Apart from all that, the decor and sofas look very nice.

  2. That’s so cool. Unfortunately I don’t have £7,500 burning a hole in my pocket. Maybe someday. Thanks for the story Lucky.

  3. @Raffles and the UK is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So what?

  4. @Pogo …. in reality is no different to flying BA/VS.. albeit a smaller J cabin, better seats, better aircraft and better schedules/frequency on the latter.

    1. A smaller J cabin
    2. Better seats
    3. Better aircraft
    4. Better schedules

  5. @kevin If you only consider the immediate few inches around your seat, then yes, the seat itself may be similar to commercial J.

    But you must also consider leaving from the private terminal, no airport insanity, the large couches on either side of the aircraft and very spread out seats.

    From the photos, this looks like a much more pleasant experience overall than commercial J.

  6. You realize that a passenger can essentially order up a negative COVID19 test by having the swab, performed by a “professional,” be done in a light, slip-shod fashion. And guess what, both the passenger and the “professional” in this situation have a vested interest in generating a negative result.

  7. @Kevin I’m struggling to understand what you are trying to say? You just copied my points and numbered them??

  8. This looks pretty thrown together. An outdated hard product being the most glaring. But those sofa’s are one of the most absurd things I have seen. For what? So you can sit and stare at the people in the center rows right next to you? Or, god forbid you got one of those rear center seats, with people congregating around the sofas right next to you. Further, they could have had more seats installed and created the lounge to the rear behind a wall…it would have resulted in more overall seating and a better use of space.

    Sure, the private terminal is a nice bonus. The catering though better be top notch to compensate for the cabin, as sleek as it appears in the photos.

  9. I agree with Stuart. Why have seats in the center right up to the galley instead of moving the couches back and creating more of a lounge space while actually having more seating capacity

  10. It’s a bit sad this luxury air service is to Barbados, which used to be a far more desirable destination, with narrow roads winding past small settlements full of clapboard and gingerbread homes, undulating cane fields, and gorgeous views in all directions. I particularly liked the rugged east coast, with its huge Atlantic breakers rolling in; a completely different terrain from the placid western (Caribbean) side of the island.

    Our most recent trip to Barbados was in October 2017, after an absence of more than a dozen years. We stayed at our favorite hotel, the British colonial Cobblers Cove, which sadly, disappointed in a number of small but significant ways, mostly to do with lowered service standards.

    More disappointing was the fact that the island is now covered by highways and is dotted with an endless number of the ugliest possible strip malls. The 45-minute ride from the airport to Speightstown was not only no longer scenic, most of what we saw en route was downright ugly.

    My husband lived on Barbados in the early 70’s, so for him it was all an even greater shock to see the island so despoiled. I can’t imagine we’ll ever return, which is a shame.

  11. Ben, those were the old Iberia’s long-haul Business Class seats; Sri Lankan never had these so most likely the aircraft was retrofitted with them after leaving the Sri Lankan fleet. Also, the blankets and the glassware from the pictures hardly seem luxurious.

  12. Correction on my previous post, the seats in the first pictures seem identical to the old Iberia seats; the other seats in the lower pictures are still used by SriLankan on some A330-200s.

  13. How ironic. I was there for a week in February of 2017 and found the island to be refreshingly authentic and charming.

  14. It’s a far cry from Coconut Airways Flight 302 to Bridgetown ( Typically Tropical, Barbados, UK number 1 hit for the whole of July 1975, YouTube search it..the nostalgia value is significant…)

  15. £7500 for a seat? Even if that’s return its absurd.

    You can charter an ’empty leg’ on something like VistaJet for a 13 or so seater small jet for £10k more or less.

    That’s £770 per person one way, £1500ish return per person.

    If you can’t get 13 people together, or don’t own your own jet, why bother with this, why not just fly BA for £2000 in business or £2500 in F.

    Sure won’t be able to fly this week, but how many people who can’t get 18 people together, don’t own their own jet and can’t wait a few weeks HAVE to go to Barbados and can’t just choose another destination?

    Seats on this plane are worth £2000 max.

    Yes Vistajet Netjets etc have membership fees, but if that is the kind of service one uses, then the £7500 for one seat in a publicly shared plane is still a utter waste.

    Using Caledonia as a one off, when you usually fly commercial is madness. You’re effectively throwing £5500 away. If flying private is your thing, yes your initial outlay is more, but £4500 for one leg, not including any ownership or membership, is bonkers when it comes to private aviation.

  16. As an example.

    My relatives are members of VistaJet.

    They chartered an entire Global Express for £20,000 return, LTN-NCE. This was not an empty leg, it was a fully private charter.

    Their deposit was $40,000 and annual fee $10,000. These fees are entirely redeemable against flights.

    So yes, I see there is a difference of having $50,000 available, compared to £7500, but if you’re just buying one ticket for yourself, and normally fly commercial, it is senseless to spend £7500 on one leg, when this could buy you 7-8 similar flights in the world of private aviation.

    Sure, you need 18-20 people of similar means, and need to take around 50 flights a year to make it worthwhile, but for people who don’t fly that much there’s commercial F.

  17. 10,000 pounds each way for a two hour flight on VistaJet. What a steal. Or robbery.

  18. @Stephen Morrissey

    You do realise this is a price for 18 passengers?

    £555 per person.

    Club Europe often costs the same on the same sector.

    Private terminal/lounge, Private security, customised catering, two full size beds, and a private terminal on arrival. Out of the airport in 3 mins.

    Much better value than Club Europe if you ask me.

    £7,500 for a pseudo private experience is what’s robbery, regardless of the length of the flight, seeing as F flights tend to max out at £4K nowadays even at the longest length.

  19. Agree that £7500 is crazy for a “pseudo private experience”.

    If you can spare the cash it’s £660 for one person or £1000 for 2 people to use Signature Elite at LGW which is a private terminal, lounge, security etc and includes being driven to your plane. This in combination with a 4-5k BA F ticket represents much better value for money and also means you can pick which day you fly and how many days you spend in BGI.

  20. Sorry.

    I just based my post on the fact that most people do not have 17 others who can fly on my schedule at my notice. Clearly you are at a higher class/income group than I. Though I did quite enjoy the new BA biz cabin on the A350-1000 the four times I travelled overseas from yyz to lhr in the fall of 2019

    “My relatives are members of VistaJet.

    They chartered an entire Global Express for £20,000 return, LTN-NCE. This was not an empty leg, it was a fully private charter.

    Their deposit was $40,000 and annual fee $10,000. These fees are entirely redeemable against flights.”

  21. @Stephen Morrissey

    The last thing I want to be is conceited.

    Money comes; and money goes. I’ve seen this many times over in my lifetime.

    Club Suite on the A350 is a million times better than the Caledonia offering. I’ve flown Club Suite DXB-LHR, and no joke, sometimes I lay in my bed and try to imagine I’m sleeping in the club suite to put myself to sleep! I’ve also flown many F products and I don’t dream of them to put me to sleep!

    Back to the monetary aspect, £50,000 upfront is certainly not something everyone can afford, but someone who’s willing to spend £7,500 on a single flight is making a big mistake. When you enter private aviation no flight is going to cost more than £2000 or so per leg.

    Whilst it makes sense for some to continue to pay £4000 F fares, because they don’t travel enough to justify the initial investment needed for private aviation, there comes a point when £4000 F fares are nonsensical, seeing as flying private won’t cost you more than £2000 in any circumstance.

    It’s like paying £50 for a fillet steak or £100 for a whole cow.

    There comes a point when you realise there are more than two fillet steaks on one cow!

  22. The private terminal at Stanstead will not be a very exclusive experience with 100 people there. Its not all that big, it felt pretty crowded when I was there as part of a group of 30 a few years ago, its much more suited to small PJs. That being said, and setting the price tag aside, I think this is a pretty great product.

  23. The old dilemma in aircraft operation has always been one of cost of the flight for an individual vs the number of seats, (capacity), crammed into an aircraft…..

    I use the term ‘crammed – in’ because this is what airlines do as the norm………

    They usually create the space for those paying more and cram in those paying a normal or minimum fare.

    The airlines generally don’t get it when it comes to passenger comfort and the biggest way in which they fail is legroom…..or to be more precise, insufficient leg room with seats too close together.

    This invariably means that when seats are too close together and the passenger in front reclines their seat there is even less room.

    Preventing seats from reclining would resolve this problem……..but an even better solution would be to remove a few rows of seating, (arguably at least two rows as a minimum), and to then re-space all the seating to provide the necessary ‘stretching’ leg room for everyone.

    The possible loss of revenue caused as a result of removing the rows of seating could be easily spread between all those flying on the aircraft…… and would result in a fairly small increase in the cost of the flight for each passenger.

    The increased cost or increase would be applied to all passengers travelling be they in First, Business or Coach……….or in such other fancy names for classes of travel that the airlines use.

    The modern trend to provide compartments or screened off seating areas for those prepared to pay more is a marketing nonsense and a gimmick……which more and more airlines are choosing as a way to promote their own brand or class of luxury……

    Such ‘cluttering-up’ of the aircraft is hard to fathom. The provision of more spacious seating could achieve the necessary comfort and luxury …….for all concerned……..and would be more easily manageable for cabin crew.

    All the cubby holes and compartments do is take up space that might be more usefully employed with better seating and seating arrangements.

    Airlines would be far better thought of and valued if they just promoted the increase in space…….for all concerned…..throughout the aircraft, than gimmicks about an extra inch or two being provided etc……

    The provision of more space per se rather than ‘gimmickry’ would provide a sales and marketing leap forward for whichever airline chose to do it first….

    Obviously, the degree of discomfort sitting in a seat in cramped space is going to be proportional to the length of the flight……so airIines could tackle things on the longer flights first.

    Passengers want a comfortable seat with a fair degree of space in the seat itself……and room to stretch their legs……….

    It’s such a simple paradigm but the airlines don’t get it…….

    They rightly, as a business, focus on what the ‘bottom line’ delivers……..but in seeking to achieve the maximum revenue they see only the simplistic concept of ‘bums on seats + maximum number of seats / space available’……….

    They fail to think more creatively…………
    It is a mindset and it has gone on for decades…….

    Thinking more creatively would start from the principles of best favoured seating space and leg room for the passenger……..and then move to putting those seats into the aircraft.

    Adjustments could be made, as required, along the way in fitting out the aircraft.

    This would call for a rethink in how seats are perceived……

    This is not rocket science, for the template for seating already exists in many instances………in the differences or discrepancies between the sizes of seating between classes.

    It is because they see advantages, in sales and marketing terms, of promoting something better and more spacious in certain parts of the aircraft as desirable and attractive that they fail to see the nonsense of having different sized seats on the same aircraft…….

    One additional point worthy of consideration, is that of doing away with overhead lockers……

    They are an unnecessary space in an aircraft……..and result in people bringing more baggage than is often necessary.

    There are a hindrance to the loading and unloading of an aircraft……both upon entering the passenger cabin and, (perhaps especially so), leaving the passenger cabin……..where aisles are cluttered and jammed with standing passengers….

    They are a risk to safety in an emergency……..where, despite available information (and commonsense), about leaving an aircraft in an emergency telling passengers to leave luggage behind…….there are still many instances of passengers thinking more about the luggage they may have in an overhead locker than their lives……!

    If all luggage were carried in the hold of an aircraft the ‘turn around’ time at each end of a flight would be reduced considerably.

    Cleaning and servicing of the aircraft would be quicker and as a consequence utilisation of the aircraft would be improved.

    If passengers merely entered an aircraft to take their seats……..and then simply vacated their seats to exist the aircraft……….things would move much faster..

    Collecting baggage at the airport ‘Carousel’ would be far easier task for passengers………who would have no clutter about them to move between aircraft and baggage collection at the ‘Carousel’…………

    Movement through the airport would be a smoother and simpler thing for all concerned.

    We need people within the airlines and the airports to recognise what passengers have always known……..and to act accordingly…

    James Hennighan
    Yorkshire, England

  24. Forgot to add……

    One wishes the airline with the new service to Barbados good luck with their venture……..

    James Hennighan
    Yorkshire, England

  25. Back in the ’90s, British Air flew the Concorde to Barbados twice a week. I used to watch it come low over Rockley Beach on its approach to Grantley Adams, looking like a Klingon warship (for the geeks out there.)

  26. Karen,

    Remember when Prince Philip flew to Barbados on Concorde and exploded with rage after the captain accidentally rolled the supersonic jet to a stop a couple of feet past the marker, resulting in the forward cabin door – from which the queen’s husband was to disembark – not aligning with the air-stairs and ceremonial red carpet? One of those classic Philip moments.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *