Jet-Setting with Merlin1, Central Texas’s low cost, luxury private aircraft option.
As a San Antonio native, I have always appreciated our city’s ability to balance a culture that both honors our history and tradition, but that also strives to grow authentically and relevantly into the future. One of our strongest sectors of municipal growth has been the steady expansion of both commercial and creative business coming in and out of San Antonio. With this economic development, there has been an increased demand for mid-sized jets to accommodate folks quickly and conveniently, both in their negotiations and also for leisure.
Prior to getting to know Merlin1 this week, I had no idea that Central Texas’s low cost provider of flexible, convenient, and luxurious private air travel is headquartered right here in San Antonio. As caterers to this business growth and leisure travel daily, Merlin1 is now flying the Learjet 60 to transport passengers quickly and conveniently. They invited me along on a day trip to New Orleans and back with them, so that I could get the full treatment and learn about their services. Let me just say…after this unforgettable experience, I will now hop on board with Merlin1 any day they want to invite me back.
It is no secret that I am one to appreciate comfort and luxury. This hassle-free drive up, hop in, wheels up approach to jet travel just about spoiled me forever. What really stood out to me though, was the level of care and attention I received from not only the CEO Jim Foody, but from everyone I had the pleasure of meeting that was part of the Merlin1 team.
I have been known to be a nervous flyer at times. I am getting better at conquering my anxieties with flying, but mid-air panic attacks still rear their ugly heads every once in a while–especially in bad weather; especially in a small plane.
When invited to join this tour, I immediately said yes, because I enjoy adventure and I get a lot of excitement out of experiencing new things. Yet, of course, the day before we were supposed to hop over to NOLA for lunch and back, the radar was forecasting thunderstorms in both San Antonio and New Orleans. I knew deep down that if the thunderstorms did in fact roll in, Merlin1 wouldn’t fly us if it was a dangerous situation.
Those who know me personally won’t be the least bit surprised to hear that after I saw the forecast, my dramatics blew my mind completely out of proportion, and in anticipation of this experience, I was preemptively referring to my jet-setting Tuesday with Merlin1 as my day in the tiny death tube. Luckily, Dan is the best at rolling his eyes at me and saying, “you’re going” whenever my irrational worries get the best of me 😉 Of course, the thunderstorms never came. The experience was one of the best I’ve ever had–I was happy as a clam and cool as a cucumber all day.
I was so relaxed because the entire flight team put me at ease immediately. CEO Jim Foody let me know right away that they carry nervous cargo often. He was seasoned in walking me through the experience. He told me all about our pilot and co-pilot, and assured me that Merlin1’s priority is customer safety. After our little chat, I realized I was being completely ridiculous. The pilots that fly for Merlin1 are either retired military pilots, retired commercial airline pilots, or both. I was in good hands, and probably safer on that plane than most any commercial flight I’d ever taken. At least I felt I was.
I had a completely nerve-free flight. I had great non-stop conversation with the other friends on the tour from take off to touch down, and I was able to chat with our pilot Mark Hoffman and our co-pilot Ernie Storms mid-flight. Mark walked me through all of the toggles and controls of the aircraft, and because we were flying at 41,000 feet, I had a moment of zenned-out perspective looking at the curvature of the Earth through the windshield of the plane. It’s amazing how much you can appreciate your ant-sized life when you zoom out (and up).
One hour and six minutes after takeoff in San Antonio, we landed over the water at the historic New Orleans Lakefront Airport for lunch at Messina’s at the Terminal. According to the airport’s website, it was built in the 1930’s. At the time of its grand opening, it was considered an architectural feat. Built by the same architect that designed the Louisiana state capital building, it was the first major airport in the region, and served proudly as a general aviation airport. It has since been refurbished and is not a public airport anymore, but it remains an art deco masterpiece. When we walked in, my imagination ran wild as I envisioned us all transported back in time, hopping off of our jets attired in our finest Old Hollywood glamour.
With 8 planes now in its fleet, Merlin1 prides itself on an extremely high level of customer service and safety. The team’s attention to detail and personal relationships with their corporate and private customers sets them apart from other charter jet offerings in our area. In fact, they are now servicing 80-100 flights per month, which is more than other local charter companies combined.
There are some Merlin1 business practices that most stood out to me. One: they really are a full travel concierge service, rather than just your transport from point A to point B. The team cares about the experiences you have in the destinations to which they’re taking you. They help plan your activities if you ask. Two: you can request your pilot. How’s that for trust and relationship building? Three: they have an “open seats on empty Merlins (OSEM)” program for customers and their immediate families that you can read about here. It’s a way for you to get where you need to go, for free, on a Merlin jet when they have openings in their schedule.
Aircraft rental pricing is fixed to reserve the entire airplane on an hourly fee. Which, if you’re flying solo can be pricey. However, if you are flying a group of 6-8 people, you don’t pay per ticket like a commercial flight. If you’re used to flying first class as a family or as a corporate team, the pricing actually is very comparable to commercial airline tickets and added fees. I was shocked. And if it’s in your price range to fly the Merlin1 way, you have the plane to yourself and you travel stress and hassle free. With the way the hurried world is these days, the thought of any relaxed experienced is extremely appealing.
Thank you to the entire team at Merlin1 for the most wonderful luxury aviation experience that I will never forget!
Happy jet-setting, travelers–
Photography + Videography by Will Crawford, KGBTexas.
Thank you to Merlin1 for generously sponsoring our unforgettable day in exchange for this post.