John Gapper

Add one more item to the advantages of owning a private jet, or having access to one. The New York Times points out that Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, could have registered on several waiting lists for liver transplants around the US because he was able to fly on short notice to any city.

In practice, we do not know why Mr Jobs ended up having a liver transplant in Tennessee – or indeed why he had one at all, although it presumably relates to the bout of pancreatic cancer for which he had surgery in 2004. Nor do we know how he got to Tennessee from California. Read more

John Gapper

My column in the FT on Thursday is about luxury and premium good in the downturn: Read more

John Gapper

Well, I realise this is old hat for some but it is new to me.

I am writing this 35,000 feet up in the air on an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to New York, thanks to the inflight internet connection (which costs $12.95). Compared to the $10 the cabin crew are charging for a sandwich, I do not think that is bad. Read more

John Gapper

These are very tough times for the business jet industry. The now infamous trip by the heads of the Detroit big three to Washington on board corporate jets to plead for cash from the US government has caused a backlash against private travel.

Here comes a fightback: two groups involved in US business aviation have now launched a campaign to improve the industry’s image. The campaign is called “No plane. No gain” and even has its own web siteRead more

John Gapper

Even an irrepressible optimist sometimes get repressed. I feel a bit sad at the departure of Vern Raburn as chief executive of Eclipse, the very light jet maker that has not yet fulfilled his hopes of transforming air travel.

Mr Raburn has paid the price for the fact that it has proved much harder than he promised to built a cheap, snap-together small jet that would be used for air taxi services and bought as an alternative to small turbo-prop aircraft. Read more

John Gapper


As trailed, I have written my FT column this week on the F-22 fighter and whether it is worth the money. I conclude that the current US position – to buy a limited number and refuse to sell others to its allies – is militarily questionable and financially crazy. You can read it here and comment below. Read more

John Gapper

Overheard on the Farnborough to London train:

A group of American defence contractors talking about a contract that was delayed by a glitch. One executive, regretfully, as if it would be the last resort: “We may have to tell the Brits about it.” Read more

John Gapper

Well, that was a first for me. I don’t think I have attended a media briefing on an aircraft before, and certainly not a US Air Force one.

The aircraft in question was a C-130J Super Hercules – one of those big transport aircraft that you see often in war zones, or involved in relief efforts. This one had just returned from a tour in Iraq and has previously operated in Afghanistan.

The beast was on the ground at the Farnborough Air Show but that did not detract from the oddity of sitting on one of the red canvas seats lined along the sides of the aircraft to hear about the aircraft and its deployment.

The rear cargo door was open so, although we were in fact at zero altitude, it felt curiously as if we were about to be tipped out of the back in parachutes. Read more

John Gapper

Well, the star of the show was certainly the star of the show. In time-honoured tradition, I have just been standing on a balcony at the Farnborough air show, with plugs in my ears,  watching fighter aircraft doing manoevres.

This year’s Farnborough highlight was the F-22, the world’s best - and most expensive – fighter aircraft. It is a stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, with Pratt and Whitney supplying the engines and the only air force that has them is the US one. Foreign governments are not allowed to buy them.

It does feel odd to be watching the beauty and balletic elegance of fighter jets at air shows, given that their mission in life is to destroy things. In the F-22′s case, it does not do much bombing of ground targets but could beat any other aircraft in a fight.

However, the F-22 is unquestionably stunning to watch. Its most surprising trait, for an aircraft that can travel at Mach 2 and launch missiles at supersonic speed, is that it can come to a virtual halt in the sky. Read more

John Gapper

The United Arab Emirates are becoming the go-too place for western, and particularly US companies, that need a bit of a boost amid financial turmoil.

I am at the Farnborough Air Show today and started my day listening to Scott Carson, the head of Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, making a brave case that his industry would prosper despite high oil prices, environmental pressures etc, delays to Boeing’s new 787 aircraft etc.

However, it was only at the end of the presentation when things definitively perked up. That was when Jim McNerney, Mr Carson’s boss, walked on stage at the media centre with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, the son of the former Emir of Dubai, to announce an order for 50 of Boeing’s next-generation 737s. Read more

John Gapper

This morning’s Wall Street Journal story on Martin Broughton, chairman of British Airways, predicting that US airlines will soon start lobbying for the relaxation of foreign ownership rules has the ring of truth to me.

The reason is that one senior executive of a US airline said precisely that to me recently (off the record). He said that he could no longer see the point of the US law barring a foreign airline from owning more than 25 per cent of a US one and would not object to it being abolished. Read more

John Gapper


My Financial Times column this week is on the proposed Delta/Northwest merger and why the companies have failed to do enough to restructure in the face of fuel price rises and a possible recession. You can read it here and comment below.

John Gapper

I have just spent a few days in London for work. As always, when I return from New York, it feels richer and more cosmopolitan than the place where I grew up.

One thing that struck me was the nationality of the aircraft passing overhead in west London. When I was a child, I used to gaze up at the aircraft coming in to land at Heathrow and try to identify the countries from which they came. Read more

John Gapper

I was gripped by Pico Iyer’s essay on the enigma of why service on US airlines is so bad compared with that in other US industries. As he pointedly asks:

Why is it, I often wonder, that US carriers have far and away the worst — most surly, inattentive and often snooty — service in the world?

It is a bit of a puzzle but I do not believe his theory that US airlines place the oldest and least enthusiastic attendants on the long-haul flights that he frequents. If that were so, then travelling on domestic US flights would be preferable. It is not.

 Read more

Snoopstamp According to OneSky Jets, a private jet charter company in the US, 15 per cent of its customers say their main reason for chartering a jet is to fly their dog, cat or other pet around.

I have observed before that the twin phenomena of growing dispersion of wealth and sentimentality towards animals is starting to produce bizarre effects. Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate, left her dog Trouble a $12m trust fund when she died earlier this year. Read more

There is an intriguing American Airlines advertisement in the New York Times this morning announcing a new "non-stop" service between New York and London. Where might it have stopped?