Manchester United Football Club is en-route to Perth, Australia, on a marathon 16 hour direct flight on-board a luxury private Boeing 777. The Boeing 777-29M(LR) belongs to the Asian hospitality and gaming conglomerate, Genting. They own the upscale Los Angeles based Crystal Cruises.
The jet, called the Crystal Skye, shares the Crystal branding and is squarely aimed at Crystal’s affluent customer base, mostly being used on pricey private jet jaunts around the globe.
The plane’s first flight as Crystal Skye in 2017 covered eight nights and included a safari in Nairobi and a quick spin across to Tahiti for a swim. The fare was a cool USD$45,000 per person. As Genting spokesperson, Kent Zhu Fuming, then told the South China Post, their customers are “a niche luxury clientele who are less impacted by the economy than most consumers.”
Right now, Manchester United is using the plane to ferry its team down to Perth for a soccer game against Perth Glory next weekend. They have the Crystal Skye for 10 days and thewest.com.au estimates the charter to cost at least USD$420,000. That, frankly, seems like a bargain.
The flight left Manchester around 2.45pm (Manchester time) on Sunday 7th July 2019. It will take 16 hours to cover the 14,627 km to Perth. They are scheduled to arrive in Perth on Monday evening (Perth time).
The jet’s history
The plane, P4-XTL is registered to Crystal Luxury Air. It first entered service in 2011 as F-OLRA for Air Austral. Air Austral flies out of Reunion and their jets scoot around the Indian Ocean, heading afar afield as China and France. F-OLRA was used on regular scheduled services by Air Austral before been brought by Crystal in 2015, re-registered as P4-XTL, and fitted out for use as a luxury charter aircraft.
The Boeing 777 inaugural flight under the Crystal brand took place in 2017.
While the thought of 16 hours on a plane with a football team may send shivers of horror down some people’s spines, things should be fairly sedate on-board this flight on one of the nicest planes in the sky.
The jet carries just 88 passengers who all enjoy lie flat seats. The carpet is said to be 8 cm thick.
While that carpet must weigh a bit, with so few passengers this Boeing 777’s payload is lighter than a conventional Boeing 777’s payload, enabling it to stay in the air for up to 19 hours. Today’s run down to Perth is well within its range.
Meals can be taken at your seat or in the spacious 24 seat lounge/dining room where the on-board Butlers will provide a level of service probably superior to your regular 777 in-flight experience.
There are six bathrooms on the plane. They are a big step up from your standard airline toilet. The best is reportedly down near the rear galley, but all are commodious, with big mirrors and large grey marble vanity areas.
Englishmen in Perth
Perth is a long way to go for a soccer game. The city is expecting 21,000 interstate and international visitors to hit town this weekend and watch the game at the brand new Optus Stadium. Unlike the Manchester United boys, many of those visitors will be squeezing into tight Air Asia and Jetstar seats for their Perth trip. Their arrival is good news for Perth hoteliers and bar owners who are cheerfully expecting the soccer fans to pump AUD$35 million into local cash registers.
It’s still a few days out but next Saturday is expected to be a typically fine and sunny Perth winter’s day, although temperatures are anticipated to peak at a toe curling 20 degrees celsius. But, if you are from Manchester, that’s not cold. In fact, Cottesloe and Rottnest Island locals are busy mentally preparing themselves for the sight of many pale English bodies out on their beaches this weekend.
Perth’s beaches can be fairly sharky, but things have been pretty quiet on that front lately.
After tracking over Europe, the top of Turkey and Iraq, the 777 is now heading out from the Saudi Peninsula for the long haul over the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The charter is a few hours behind the daily Qantas London to Perth flight and is following a similar tracking.
The cosseted Manchester team should be nicely rested by next weekend. Perth Glory do well in the Australian Football competition, but are probably biting off more than they can chew taking on Manchester United this weekend.
Still, there will be plenty of insufferably smug Australians on Sunday morning if the local team pull of a minor miracle and win.
And the luxury Crystal jet to take Manchester home should help ease the pain.