If Dubai hotels are constantly trying to outdo each other by reaching to stratospheric heights with their over-the-top amenities, one hotelier wants to win the battle once and for all: He’s literally taken his brand to the sky.
Starting Thursday, the party-hard Five Hotels & Resorts starts accepting bookings on its very own 16-passenger private jet, promising that the entertainment will begin before you even get to Dubai. Flights aren’t limited to hotel guests, though. Anyone can book the plane for a trip of up to 12 hours.
This isn’t the stuffy corporate jet seen on Succession, where people whisper about contingency plans and offer talking points. This plane is made for boozy celebrations and out-of-your-seat dancing: Its LED lights can make the entire cabin glow purple or whatever color you’d like. Behind a door toward the back of the main cabin is the bedroom with a king-size bed. Instructions printed next to it remind passengers that its maximum occupancy is two, and a “gust belt” must be worn when in use. (Picture of a long seatbelt that goes under the covers in the middle of the mattress.)
“We’ve started thinking of ourselves as an entertainment company,” says Kabir Mulchandani, Five Global Holdings’ chairman and founder, who personally owns the plane. The group’s first hotel, Five Palm Jumeirah, is already known locally as one of the biggest party hotels in the city. It regularly hosts star DJs for beach parties, and guests can drive its supercar right into the hotel’s nightclub—for a fee of 10,000 dirhams ($2,723).
A select number of hotels own their own aircraft, but for logistical purposes, not for partying: Luxury African safari operators have fleets of small planes to reach extremely remote destinations, while some in the Maldives operate planes to bring guests to outlying islands. Luxury resort Aurora Anguilla owns a jet to offer quicker passage to guests from South Florida or New York City, and it’s also used to import necessary items to its namesake island, where local purchasing is limited. Meanwhile, hotels such as Aman and Four Seasons have offered private-jet trips, but they are excursions of a few weeks at a time, rather than simply a mode of transportation, with logistics arranged by third-party operators.
Trips on the Five plane will cost about $13,000 to $14,000 per hour of flight time, not including various relocation costs, which would mean about $195,000 for a round trip between London and Dubai. At about $12,000 per person on a full flight, it’s roughly equivalent to a first-class ticket on Emirates Airlines.
“For the type of aircraft, considering that it has a VIP arrangement inside, I’d say it’s a very good price,” said Dominique Bousquet, team manager at private-jet charter firm Welojets. The cost positions it between an Airbus with a larger cabin—which is offered for $15,000 to $20,000 an hour—and a smaller Gulfstream or Bombardier jet offered for $12,000 to $14,000 per hour, said Christopher Marich, co-founder of company MySky, a software for business aviation companies.
The private-jet service is the latest expansion beyond hotels for the Five brand, which was formed in 2017. This year, the company opened a recording studio at its Five Palm Jumeirah hotel and started a record label in partnership with Warner Music Group. And Mulchandani says the next step will be a branded yacht for massive offshore parties. Again, a different vibe than cruises already offered by luxury hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton.
The aircraft, called 9H-FIVE—the “H” is Hotel in the phonetic alphabet used by pilots—will be operated by Zurich-based Comlux. It’s the first of the new ACJ TwoTwenty aircraft model to be delivered by Airbus SAS and was flown to Geneva last week to be shown off at a private-jet conference, Ebace.
Mulchandani says he came up with the idea for buying planes during the Covid-19 lockdown era, when he saw the demand for private jets boom. “I was flying a lot of that time, talking to people in various terminals,” he said. Once they experienced private aviation, he says, they wouldn’t go back to traveling another way. And that prediction is largely holding up: In the US, the number of private-jet flights dipped by 4.6% in the first quarter, to 1.26 million takeoffs and landings, but bookings are still way above pre-Covid numbers.
Mulchandani says he wasn’t expecting to make money on the plane when he made a handshake deal for the purchase in August 2021 and signed a contract a few months later. First and foremost, he says, it was a marketing tool for the brand. And he and his company can use it when it isn’t booked. But in some way, Mulchandani had good timing: He says he’s locked in fuel prices for five years below the current market price. He wouldn’t disclose how much he paid for the jet, but he says the market value for the plane is $80 million to $85 million.
The plane needs to fly about 200 hours a year to break even, Mulchandani says. That’s less time in the air than most private jets log, says Matteo Atti, chief marketing officer of VistaJet Ltd., a leading global aviation charter company. VistaJet’s planes are usually used 800 to 1,000 hours per year.
Leisure and party travel is a tiny percentage of overall demand for private jets, which gives Five a niche, Atti says. “This type of category of planes is trying to address a market that was not explicitly targeted before,” he said. “If they can make a name for themselves as a party plane, I am sure they can get a few flights in.”
After this, Mulchandani has his sights set even higher. Eventually, he wants to take the party into outer space. After all, people taking leisure trips to the moon are going to need a place to stay.