Hollywood A-listers forced to mothball their personal jets
Even the biggest stars are feeling the pinch as the oil crisis leads to huge rises in the cost of aviation fuel
Sunday 31 August 2008
They probably won't get much sympathy from their hard-pressed fans, but America's stars of stage and screen are being forced to give up one of the traditional benefits of their celebrity status: private jets.
The soaring price of aviation fuel, which is now twice the cost of a year ago, is adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical flight, prompting members of Hollywood's élite to think the unthinkable and ground their personal Gulfstreams.
Last week, the hip-hop artist P Diddy joined the ranks of high-profile private jet refuseniks when he revealed that he's been forced to mothball his plane, after the cost of his twice-monthly trips from his headquarters in New York to Los Angeles hit nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
"Gas prices are too high," he told subscribers to his blog. "As you know, I do own my own jet. But I've been having to fly back and forth to LA pursuing my acting career. Now, if I'm flying, like, twice in a month that's like $200,000 or $250,000 round trip ... So I'm back on American Airlines right now."
The singer, famed for his conspicuous consumption, added a "shout out to all my Saudi Arabian brothers and sisters and all my brothers and sisters from all the countries that have oil: if you could all please send me some oil for my jet, I would truly appreciate it."
A further indication of Hollywood's cooling attitude towards private jets came last week, when it was announced that the new season of Entourage, the modish TV series about a famous young film star and his friends, would be sponsored by the commercial carrier Virgin America.
In previous series of the show – which has won three Emmys and a Golden Globe, and is fêted as one of the most accurate portrayals of American showbusiness – the protagonist, Vincent Chase, and his acquaintances have only ever travelled in their own jet.
A spokeswoman for Virgin America, Abby Lunardini, said that although the firm didn't keep figures, the number of celebrity clients using its service appeared to have risen substantially in recent months.
"Anecdotally, we're getting a lot more famous people," she said. "Last week, we had Reese Witherspoon, and Dustin Hoffman and Al Pachino flying with us within a couple of days of each other. In fact, when Janet Jackson booked to fly with us recently, I remember everyone saying: 'But don't these sort of people have their own planes?'"
Aside from financial constraints, a further imperative for some stars to ditch their private jet habit has come from the environmental lobby, which points out that the mid-size Gulfstream 200 uses from 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of fuel for a coast-to-coast flight. If it carries four people, campaigners note, it uses up to 350 gallons of fuel per passenger, roughly 10 times the amount of fuel used per person on a similar journey on a Boeing 737-300.
In May, Fox News carried a report on so-called "Lear Jet liberals", naming and shaming the stars who preach environmental responsibility while criss-crossing the globe in private jets.
Among its targets were the hybrid-driving Leonardo DiCaprio, who was ridiculed for taking a Gulfstream to Cannes for the premiere of his global warming documentary The Eleventh Hour, together with Madonna – the jet-owning cover star of Vanity Fair's "green issue" – and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who used a helicopter to travel to hospital for the birth of their twins.
John Travolta, a keen amateur pilot who owns five airliners and has a runway at his country home, also prompted talk of pots and kettles when he used a red-carpet appearance at the premiere of his recent film Wild Hogs to tell fans to cut their carbon emissions.
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