Aircraft Buyer Questions, Pt 3: Aircraft Amenities

Before closing in on the aircraft you’ll buy, what should buyers know about the amenities on board? René Armas Maes continues his series, helping buyers relate the aircraft’s amenities to trip and mission profile, and budget…

René Armas Maes  |  31st March 2022
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René Armas Maes
René Armas Maes

René Armas Maes, Vice President, Commercial, Jet Link International LLC, is an international...

A view of a private jet cabin from the galley area

Business Aviation’s leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) put a high premium on quality, convenience, attention to detail, sustainability, and mobility aboard the aircraft they build. The end-goal is to deliver amenities in the cabin matching what aircraft passengers would expect on the ground in their offices, cars, and homes. 

Optimizing the comfort, health and well being of passengers through the cabin amenities available on a private airplane is vital for aircraft owners, operators, and OEMs alike. 

Typically, Large Jets provide the greatest number of amenities, and the highest level of luxury and comfort, including fully equipped galleys, ample cabin space (divided into various zones, seating, and sleeping configurations), lavatories, and walk-in baggage areas. 

Mid-size and Super Mid-size Jets also offer comfortable stand-up cabins in which to relax, smaller galleys, lavatories, and walk-in baggage areas. Light Jets typically offer a small lavatory and a convenient beverage and snack station, plus less cabin volume. 

The cabins in the even smaller Very Light Jet category, though more confined, remain very comfortable for shorter flights, and are comparable to the highest quality interiors installed in today’s luxury automobiles.

It is worth noting that amenities on older aircraft can be surprisingly on-trend in offering the best in comfort and productivity, thanks to the thriving retrofit market which enables the latest technologies and materials found in factory-new jets to be installed into the cabins of pre-owned airplanes

So, what are some of the important amenities aboard today’s business jets, and where should buyers look for them? We’ll explore over the following paragraphs… 

Cockpit and Aircraft Performance 

The level of automation built into today’s business jets, and retrofitted into some pre-owned models, allows one pilot to fly the jet while the other rests. The ultimate goal of automation in the cockpit is to reduce pilot workload, helping to enhance safety. 

Examples of this technology include touchscreen technology, Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS), Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS), and Head Up Displays (HUDs) serving as primary flight displays in low visibility operations. 

Cabin Comfort & Convenience 

Seating & cabin configuration: Although there are several standard seating configurations, these can vary, based on the existing aircraft owner’s needs. The cabins of Ultra-Long-Range jets, such as the Gulfstream G650 or Dassault Falcon 8X, can be divided into different areas, including zones facilitating work and meetings, and areas more suited to rest and relaxation. 

Cabin dividers can be positioned according to individual customer preference, enabling the expansion or shrinkage of each zone when being installed at the factory, or refurbished at an MRO center. 

Usually, passengers can choose from multiple cabin configurations when ordering their aircraft, and these may be changed, when acquired by a new owner, to offer greater modular and living space flexibility according to individual requirements. 

Of course, as we move down in cabin size, the scope for interior lay-out changes reduces – though it may still be possible to find a two-seat divan replacing a coffee-station in a Light Jet, optimizing seating capacity. 

Those considering buying an aircraft will need to have identified their own travel requirements, including the number of passengers, and the average trip lengths, to ensure the interior of a prospective aircraft will work for them. 

This will also help identify any possible modifications that need to be made to a prospective aircraft, and how much those will cost. The answers to such questions will flow from an effective Trip and Mission Analysis

Galley and Lavatory: Large Jets invariably offer full-service kitchens that can be stocked with fine foods and beverages. As mentioned, the smaller the cabin, the less room there will be for catering facilities. At the same time, as the cabin volume comes down, so do the range capabilities of the aircraft, so full catering becomes less important.

While shopping for your prospective aircraft, you will need to have a good idea about what you want the catering facilities to achieve. For example, will you be hosting important clients and prospects aboard the aircraft? If so, even on shorter trips catering would be important for hospitality reasons.

Similarly, while most Light Jets offer a lavatory, not all are entirely private, and some double up as an additional passenger seat. Your typical passenger profile, stage length, and trip type will all play a part in determining what lavatory arrangement your prospective aircraft must offer. 

Cabin Electronics: Many aircraft today offer state-of-the-art cabin management systems allowing passengers the ability to control their cabin environment (lighting, temperature, etc.) via their personal electronic devices. 

Meanwhile, sophisticated in-flight entertainment and in-flight connectivity systems (IFEC) can offer a good combination of capabilities to facilitate business and leisure activities. 

Wide-screen televisions, surround-sound, wireless technologies, and ambient lighting (LED mood lighting), as well as noise-isolating headphones, all optimize the passenger experience, or ensure the activities of one passenger doesn’t interfere with those of another.

In addition to establishing which cabin electronics are essential to your mission (thereby helping identify which pre-owned candidates require less upgrading after you have purchased it) it’s essential to establish whether Wi-Fi is installed, and if so, which type.

Air-to-Ground (ATG) connectivity, for example, will be cheaper than satellite connectivity, but only works over continental North America. Older satellite connectivity systems, meanwhile, while providing connectivity internationally, are unlikely to provide data speeds considered acceptable by busy executives, or those seeking to stream movies (though a good entertainment system with built-in movie library could remedy the latter problem).

If you plan to charter the aircraft out to generate revenue when you are not using it, fast, efficient Wi-Fi is a non-negotiable, so additional investment will be needed if the aircraft’s existing system is outdated or non-existent.

Cabin Environment: The cabin air pressure is an important consideration, especially on longer-range fights where passengers need to arrive at their destination in optimum condition (for an important business meeting, for example).nThe lower the cabin pressure at altitude, the lower the bimpact of jetlag.

Business Aviation’s leading OEMs continue to work to bring cabin pressure at altitude to ever lower levels. As an example, the cabin pressure Dassault expects the Falcon 10X to offer is 3,000 feet while cruising at FL410.

And, of course, in today’s Covid-impacted world, passenger safety is often at the top of the agenda, so an effective air filtration system that provides adequate protection against infection and viral transmission may well be important in your selection of a suitable aircraft.

Two Lists: ‘Must Have’ and ‘Don’t Want’

When considering an aircraft’s amenities, begin by ranking your must-have versus the nice-to-have items. Which do you value the most, and what would justify paying a premium for? Is a larger stand-up cabin worth the extra expenditure? How about a fully enclosed lavatory?

Similarly, create a list of items that you do not want in your aircraft, such as specific seat textures, cabinetry colors, seat configurations reducing leg room, aft galley, or older lighting systems. Leave no area of the aircraft off either list – right down to the entrance door width.

As the lists develop, allow for the fact that your budget may need to be revised. Once you finalize your must-have list, understand the incremental costs associated with those items.

If you’re prepared to spend money customizing the cabin to your personal needs and tastes, however, remember that the extra investment may be difficult to recoup in the future if your needs and tastes are highly individualized. In fact, a highly customized cabin and amenities could diminish the airplane’s residual value, ultimately.

Once you have identified the amenities that fit your trip and mission analysis, and your budget, you’ll need to create a timeline for purchasing an aircraft and obtaining financing. This will be discussed in the next installment of Pre-Purchase Questions for Buyers.

Stay tuned...

Did you miss Parts 1, 2 and 4 of this series? Find them here:

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René Armas Maes

René Armas Maes

Editor, Buyer Strategy & Finance

René Armas Maes, Vice President, Commercial, Jet Link International LLC, is an international aviation consultant and experienced C-Level professional. He has built a successful track record for developing and delivering Business Aviation strategies for Fortune 500 companies, Venture Capital firms, and HNWIs.

René is a regular columnist for Bloomberg (financial), America Economia (business) and a speaker at aviation conferences worldwide.



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