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Zipping around on Zulu Time

Zipping around on Zulu Time

The high fliers are equipped with these magnificent machines:
* A CL-600-2B16 Challenger 605, which costs a mere $24 million.
* A 2008 Socata TBM 700, more attractively priced at only $2 million.
* A Piper Malibu Mirage (piston-single), which costs on average $700,000 for a second-hand model.
* A 1993 Cessna 560 C/N 560-0225, a steal at only $500,000.

A group of tourists passing through Siem Reap last weekend raised the stakes entirely when it comes to defining high-class travel.

The owner-pilots of four private jets flew into Siem Reap on Saturday on Zulu Time* to see Angkor Wat, while staying at the Hotel
de la Paix on a trip that combines exclusive luxury, adventure and culture in ways that the rest of us have probably never even imagined.

These high flyers, travelling from Quebec and back to Seattle the long way over a 10-week period, have been winging their way to destinations as diverse as Inverness, Ibiza, Calcutta, Krabi, Sharm el Sheik and Siem Reap. Blazing through 39 destinations in 26 countries across all five continents, they’ll cover roughly 25,000 nautical miles.

The trip is the brainchild of French pilot Thierry Pouillé and his company Air Voyage, and this is only the second time it has ever been done. Siem Reap is making its debut appearance on the itinerary this time around, and for Pouillé, the choice to add it was easy.

“This is a journey about culture, but also about fun. Siem Reap and Angkor Wat were an obvious choice,” he said.

Pouillé, 54, earned his pilot’s licence when he was 16 (he still had to cycle to the airport as he was too young to drive) and has been running Air Voyage since he founded it in 1998. From its base in Florida, the company arranges trips for one of the most exclusive customers in the world – private jet owners.

At the moment there are four in the travelling group, but others have joined for different phases of the trip. The pilots receive a briefing before each departure on specially issued iPads, and their hotel keys are handed to them when they land. Everything, absolutely everything, is taken care of, even special landing permission to touch down at the military base beside the Taj Mahal, bypassing Indian bureaucracy and transport systems.

This kind of care does not come cheap of course. For a 75-day trip, the average cost is about $1000 per day, per person. On top of that, there are the costs of running and fuelling the planes, which, for the whole trip, can range from $70,000 to $100,000. It seems that when you own a multi-million-dollar plane, the sky really is the limit.

“Everything is a highlight on a trip like this. You choose the place you want to go, make it a destination, and have fun,” says a very content Pouillé, showing photo after stunning photo as his cheerful guests pass through on their way to the briefing for Hong Kong before dinner at Meric restaurant.

Speaking of Siem Reap, Pouillé adds, “When we came here, we had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, talking to the people, that was one of the big highlights of the journey. We had no idea how beautiful it was, how friendly the people are, how easy it was to get in and out. The guys all loved it.”

Almost all of the members of this group have signed up for the next trip, too. Let’s hope they might consider taking stowaways.

* Zulu Time is GMT, the international standard flight time used to avoid confusion over time zones.


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