The Long Trip Home

The only way to fly. If you can afford it. Stephen Pope

“This is the crack cocaine of air travel.”

That was the humorous yet apt assessment by my seatmate after we touched down last Friday at Rio’s downtown airport in an Embraer Legacy 600. It was a colorful comparison to airline travel from a fellow journalist who had never before experienced flight on a private jet. And while I probably wouldn’t use the hard-drug metaphor to describe what it’s like to travel as a passenger aboard a business jet compared with just about any other form of transportation, I also had to admit that he was exactly right.

We’d flown from San Jose dos Campos, the site of Embraer’s production factory, to the Brazilian coast in about 30 minutes. The same trip on an airliner would have meant driving to the main commercial airport in Sao Paulo an hour away, arriving at least an hour before our flight, and then spending an hour in the air before landing and collecting our bags. Given that option, it would have been just as easy (or, better put, just as hard) to drive the three hours from San Jose to Rio, although the roads over the mountains are said to be pretty treacherous.

As it was, a company Legacy was traveling to Rio and we were able to hitch a ride – and in the process save ourselves at least two and half hours of travel time.

But it was the trip home from Rio de Jainero to New Jersey that really made me long for the comfort and convenience of business jet travel. My airline flight from Rio to Sao Paulo was canceled, as was my connection from Washington Dulles to Newark, both after-affects of Hurricane Irene. I finally finagled a flight on Brazil’s TAM airline for the first leg of my journey, but there were no available airline flights to Newark for days.

My best option was to rent a car at Dulles and drive to Newark, where my own car was parked, and then drive home. Because of flooded roads and power outages that knocked out traffic signals, the driving portion of my trip, time wise, was longer than the 4,750-mile flight from Brazil – it took about 10 hours in the car with only the droning of AM talk radio and news to pass the time.

If I’d had access to the Legacy, or any other long-legged business jet, I could have flown direct from Rio, and a couple of fuel stops later landed in Allentown, Pennsylania, not far from the New Jersey border but far enough away from the storm’s wrath that an easy car ride would have replaced an incredibly difficult and tiring one.

So, again, while I probably wouldn’t choose my fellow passenger's vivid euphemism to describe what a private jet can do for a busy traveler’s already hectic life, I wholeheartedly agree with those who use terms like “time machine,” “business tool,” or, my personal favorite: “simply wonderful."


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