It’s not every day you get invited to fly on a private jet. So when Navair asked if I wanted to write about their private jet service, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve.
Navair is an Australian luxury private aircraft company, providing travel solutions to businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals around Australia. With 40 years of operational experience, Navair delivers uncompromising personal service, safety, discretion, and reliability. Led by General Manager and Chief Pilot Rick Pegus, Navair’s exclusive fleet of private jets can operate flights to and from almost anywhere in Australia and around the world. Travel is a breeze with aircraft available at a time that suits you. The team handles the end-to-end travel experience, including luxury airport transfers and a private flight lounge at the home base. Skip the long queues for check-in and security and fly directly to your destination in record time.
In this article, I take flight onboard one of Navair’s luxury Phenom 300 jets, putting their service to the test from Hobart to Sydney Bankstown.
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Navair operates seven jets across three aircraft types, with the majority of these located at the group’s Bankstown Airport hangar, a short drive from the Sydney CBD. Aircraft also call home to Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but can be deployed throughout the Asia Pacific region. These jets include:
- Cessna Citation Mustang (5 pax)
- Embraer Phenom 100 (5 pax)
- Embraer Phenom 300 (9 pax)
In addition, commercial partnerships allow Navair to access an extensive fleet of aircraft and helicopters, from small turboprops all the way up to 80 passenger airliners. Extensive information about each aircraft including cabin images and format can be found on Navair’s fleet page.
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Navair can arrange a luxury jet charter anywhere in Australia and to an extensive list of locations throughout the Asia Pacific region.
How Much Does Private Jet Charter Cost?
As you might expect, hiring a luxury jet is not a cost-effective means of transport. That said, the type of passenger Navair service are more concerned with inclusive value, comfort and speed.
For my journey from Hobart to Bankstown, Navair passed on a quote of $18,800 in the Embraer Phenom 300. That’s just over $2,000 per person if all nine seats were filled.
Of course, this price differs on the aircraft type and includes the cost of operating the jet down from Bankstown in order to pick me up. Other factors such as landing and parking fees plus fuel costs will influence a quote, meaning your price might differ for the time and route requested.
The Phenom 300 has long been one of my favourite small jets, making it my aircraft of choice to travel in style with Navair. The aircraft is built by Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, which you may recognise from the E190 which QantasLink now runs on thin routes within Australia. The Phenom 300 has been the world’s best-selling light jet for nine years running, and for good reason.
With no need for a boarding pass, no check-in, no security screening and no missing baggage, travelling by private jet is about as seamless as it gets. I was asked to arrive at the airport fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled 3:30pm departure, and meet my pilot Rick near access gate one. From there, my plane was a mere 10-metre walk.
The aircraft had been refuelled and was ready to go on arrival, complete with a branded carpet at the foot of the stairs. After the obligatory Instagram shot, we taxied out for a smooth departure and climbed up to a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet.
The cabin is Phenom-enal with a serious wow factor as soon as you climb aboard. The aircraft itself was built in 2018 and kept incredibly tidy, making it feel brand new. I loved the black leather and red stitching of the club-style seats, which were extremely comfortable and offered an abundance of recline. The entire seat is fully adjustable and can pivot into the aisle and move forwards or backwards. Similar to widebody business class, a sash belt is fitted for takeoff and landing and can be removed during the cruise.
Towards the pointy end are two additional seats, fitted as a dual couch.
To cater for an extra (ninth) passenger, the co-pilot seat can be used. Even though the cabin was incredibly comfortable, this was easily my favourite seat onboard. To experience flight from the cockpit of a world-class jet was an aviation nerd’s dream, and it is entirely possible that I was distracted throughout the entire interview with Rick! This perspective was especially entertaining when we flew through a storm before a perfectly executed wet runway landing.
While the Phenom 300 is approved and regularly used for single-pilot operations, you may request to have two pilots join your flight.
All flights with Navair include an assortment of light snacks and drinks, with specialised catering available on request. My flight saw a grazing box plus salad sandwiches and wraps. Branded water is provided alongside plenty of pressed juices and soft drinks as well as a limited alcoholic selection.
At the back of the cabin, you will find the toilet which has closing doors for privacy. But even better is the window behind and in front of the toilet making for a fantastic loo view!
The Phenom also boasts a comprehensive entertainment system. There are two small video screens that show flight progress and play movies, passenger controlled cabin temperature and even Bluetooth music connectivity to turn the cabin into a dance party. Below, find Navair’s Phenom 300 aircraft specifications.
If you depart Navair’s Sydney Bankstown base, the private flight lounge is yours to use. The space is fully equipped with bathroom and kitchen facilities, light reading material and comfortable seating. Travellers can enjoy a full suite of light refreshments including snacks plus hot and cold drinks. Business facilities are also available.
My pilot Rick Pegus was a smooth operator and exceptional pilot who clearly knows the industry inside and out. As Navair’s General Manager and Chief Pilot, I thought it wise to ask Rick a few questions about the business of private jet charter.
From the cockpit at 36,000 feet in the air, this must have been the coolest interview I’ve conducted. Here’s how it went.
Tom Goward: Tell me a bit about yourself and how Navair came about?
Rick Pegus: I was working at Mercedes Benz many years ago in-between flying jobs, around the time Google started. Some of the clients I was dealing with wanted an aircraft to charter, and they asked me if I could find them an aeroplane, so I started to think about establishing a brokerage. Then a friend of mine came to me who also wanted to start a brokerage, and thought we would be successful through adverting on Google. So we established one together, and named it Skypac. After the GFC, we then bought an operating business called Aviation Centre, which we merged with Skypac. We ultimately owned an aircraft brokerage, along with some aircraft we operated ourselves.
Afterwards, I bought the lease on a hangar that was owned by Navair. It was a well-known name from its flying school days, so I decided to rebrand and put Skypac under the Navair name. We have been operating as Navair for the last five or so years, and in that time we have grown rapidly. We are now operating six jets, with four in Sydney, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane
Tom: What about the aircraft. What aircraft are you type rated to fly and which is your favourite?
Rick: I fly the Phenom 300, the Phenom 100, the Citation Mustang, plus various single and twin-engine pistons. The nicest one to fly is probably the Mustang followed by this (the Phenom 300), which is fun to fly being the fastest. It has a nice weight about it and does exactly what you want it to do.
Tom: Have you had any crazy stories or flights with famous passengers?
Rick: We have flown lots of famous passengers, recently we flew Julia Roberts. We have flown Bill Gates, Matt Damon, a lot of other celebrities, and even the Prime Minister.
Tom: Obviously private jets appeal to wealthy individuals, so what are the benefits of choosing Navair?
Rick: One of the big reasons that people choose to fly private is to avoid crowds. This offers them privacy, which is favoured by clients travelling for work. When clients travel for work, they usually want to prepare on the way to their destination, and you can’t have an in-depth conversation sitting on an airliner. Also, avoiding crowds is more covid-safe. Another reason people choose to travel private is so they can fly multiple legs in one day to wherever they like. A lot of our clients have business locations in regional areas and need to fly directly to multiple destinations in one day. This is difficult to achieve with the airlines, as flights are extremely limited to regional cities. Whilst it can be expensive, it is worth it for many business owners, as it saves time for them and improves efficiencies in their business. Also, a benefit of flying private is that our aircraft can land at airports that some airlines cannot as their aircraft are too big for the runways.
Tom: You mentioned the expense there. How does Navair’s pricing compare to commercial business class flights?
Rick: It depends on whether you fill the aircraft. If you put eight people in this (the Phenom 300), then it could probably equate to the price of eight business class fares. We don’t always fill all the seats, but clients are fine with this as they appreciate the privacy they get.
Tom: What about if I was looking for a cheaper way to experience a private jet. Does Navair offer discounted empty leg flights?
Rick: We used to advertise empty legs, but we found it doesn’t suit our business model. It was not worth it, as we would spend a lot of time and effort advertising the empty legs, and we wouldn’t end up filling them. Usually, it’s because the aircraft isn’t going in the same direction or at the same time people want to travel.
The other problem is that we don’t actually make that much profit off empty legs, because of the last minute cost of organising all the elements involved. It also can take away flexibility from our clients, which is a reason why people choose to travel privately. For instance, if clients want to change the time they depart at the last minute, it can have knock-on effects to the empty leg we filled.
Tom: I guess if flexibility is important for your full-price customers it’s important you don’t have bookings lined up afterwards. Something equally important at the moment is keeping safe with covid. Your marketing team told me flying private is safer than commercial air travel at the moment. Do you agree?
Rick: Yes, and it’s because there are far fewer touchpoints when you fly with us. You may have noticed that airports were mostly empty at the height of the pandemic, so it was actually an ideal time to travel as you may have been one of ten people on the aircraft. But now that’s changed. Now aircraft are full, and you are sitting next to people without knowing where they’ve been. A few months ago, a consultancy firm confirmed that travelling private is 95% covid safer. They calculated that on a commercial flight, there are 700 touchpoints, whereas private flights have 30 or less.
Tom: The other thing is that airlines have increased their cleaning since the pandemic first hit. Has Navair done the same?
Rick: We thoroughly clean the aircraft in between each flight, which the airlines simply don’t do. They may give aircraft a vacuum in between flights, but the real cleaning, such as disinfecting surfaces, may only happen a few times a day. We have cleaning products that are certified for eliminating germs, bacteria and covid, so we can guarantee the aircraft is of the highest cleanliness for our passengers.
Tom travelled as a guest of Navair. Q&A edited for length and clarity. Supplementary images courtesy of Navair.