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"Private Jet News"

Flying in a private jet used to be the ultimate status symbol, but the recession completely knocked the wind out of the industry -- until now. Private jet travel is staging a comeback. As major airlines are hiking airfares and cutting routes, and long lines at security and delayed flights weigh on travelers, private jet carriers are seeing the first increase in demand since 2008. In fact, 12% of wealthy Americans (those with a net worth of $5 million or higher) said they plan to boost spending on private jet travel this year, up from 9% in 2010, according to the Luxury Institute's wealth survey. It's not only the rich: Less affluent consumers are also starting to trade up, as some private jet firms lower prices to lure in new business through flight-sharing deals and social networking campaigns on Facebook that offer last-minute deals. Another sign that things are looking up: Strong sales of Gulfstream Aerospace's latest and greatest luxury liner, the G650, which holds about 14 to 16 passengers and costs a cool $64 million. The company is entirely sold out of the plane for the next five years and it hasn't even begun deliveries on it yet, according to Jeff Miller, a spokesman for the company. "[The private jet industry is] not going to get back to where it was at its peak in the late 1990s, but anything is better than where we are," said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. Over the past few years, the struggling economy put the brakes on private jet travel. Businesses mostly did away with executive jets and luxury travelers downgraded to first-class commercial flights. To add insult to injury, rising gas prices and the environmental impact from carbon emissions also put private planes out of favor. Then there was the 2008 gaffe when the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies flew on private jets to Washington to request taxpayer bailout money. But it's not just the super-rich and aspirational consumers that are supporting this niche industry. Corporate clients make up a majority of the private jet travelers and, as profits improve, more businesses will take advantage of this mode of transportation -- even if environmental concerns persist. For business travelers, the speed and convenience of a private plane is particularly attractive, especially when it's billed to an expense account. From a convenience standpoint it's a no brainer, If time is money, that's a big deal. When people of means decide that the extra $10,000 [to fly on a private plane] is worth it, you'll know the economy has left the contraction, That may be the best leading indicator of the whole economy.

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