Why is it so hard to charter a jet for 12?

sipping champagne on a jetMy husband and I were having caviar cones at our favorite restaurant in Beverly Hills, when I raised the specter of chartering a jet and taking some friends to Sonoma for his 50th birthday. It should only be an hour and half flight from Palm Springs, and I figured I could schedule a lunch with Liz in the Bubble Room at J winery, our favorite spot for sparklers. Afterwards, I imagined an afternoon of pinot tasting at Banshee with Zack followed by an early dinner at Chalkboard, featuring their pasta tasting menu.

My husband doesn’t like birthdays and doesn’t want a fuss, but I feel that I have standards to maintain. The night before, we’d been at a smashing birthday fete for one of my husband’s longest friends. He turned 50 as well, and his fiancé hosted an intimate dinner for twenty-four at Osteria Mozza, the most upscale Italian place in Los Angeles. It was an evening of excess. The first clue? The tray passed hors d’oeuvres included full slices of pepperoni pizza. After four starter courses, two seafood courses, two pasta courses and short ribs, we had cupcakes and then a full dessert course. I would have never imagined that much food being served to a gaggle of gays so close to West Hollywood, but I guess swimsuit season is a ways off for most. (Unfortunately, for those of us in Palm Springs, it’s already started, and I need to slim down about six and a half pounds before I’m ready for any pool parties).

I wanted to go to San Sebastian on the north coast of Spain. They have more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world, and my husband and I love modern Spanish cuisine. My husband wants something more low-key, or so I thought, until I saw the twinkle in his eye when I mentioned this private jet idea.

We talked about what we might do, and that evening, I put in an online request with a jet service based here in the desert. I got an immediate call from the service, as one might expect in the private charter business. She said that currently the largest jet they had would only accommodate eight passengers, but that they were buying a new jet this summer and would be able to fly ten people at a time by fall. She asked if I could trim my list down to ten people. I’ve often thought that my husband could shave his friend list by a couple so I was down for her suggestion. I told her that we could definitely cut out at least two people, and then inquired about how much it would be for ten.

She gave me a price of about $15,000, and then explained that one person would have to use the lavatory seat. Not being familiar chartering a jet, I assumed that in the lexicon of the uber rich, “lavatory” must have a different meaning. Not wanting to expose my naivety, but not yet wanting to whittle down my husband’s list of friends to seven, I had to ask.

“So someone will ride in the toilet?”

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” she replied. “There’s a little pad on the toilet lid.”

“That’s really exactly as bad as I expected,” I said and was about to go on about how ridiculous her proposition, but she had another limitation for our trip.

“Our crew is limited to a fourteen and a half hour day, so we wouldn’t be able to accommodate a 9am departure and 7pm return,” she said.

Math was always my strong suit so I said, “Assuming worst case a two-hour flight, that’s only twelve hours.”

“The crew is based in Thermal,” she said, “so there would be time associated with getting to Palm Springs and flight pre-check and,” blah blah blah. “You’d have to leave Sonoma by 4pm.”

I hesitated because at this moment, everything I aspired to came crashing down. If I ever had enough money to charter a jet, I’d have to deal with these limitations? I was about to hang up, but she had a counter-proposal.

“Of course, if you wanted to drive to Thermal, then we could accommodate your proposed schedule.”

I was about to pull out my credit card, but then I realized we were going to drive an hour to Thermal, each way. Didn’t that defeat the purpose of a private jet?

“I guess this just isn’t going to work,” I said, ready to call the whole affair off, but she wasn’t done.

“Maybe you could rent two jets?”

I hung up. Renting two jets? That just seems over the top.