Nov 21, 2021 - Economy & Business

The great yacht, plane shortage

Animated illustration of a scared face made from the zeros on the top corner of a one hundred dollar bill
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Rich people's toys — mansions, yachts, watches, private jets — are in short supply, forcing the superrich to cough up even more cash for exclusive activities — if they can get in on them at all.

Why it matters: The richest Americans are experiencing a version of the shortages and price hikes that define the pandemic economy for the rest of us. But while you may be having trouble finding what you need at the grocery, the super wealthy are having trouble getting a yacht.

  • Globally, 2020's rise in wealth inequality was the second biggest of the last century, according to Credit Suisse's wealth report, which also found that the ultra high net worth cohort saw the most newcomers in nearly two decades.

One side effect is record demand and soaring costs for their exclusive activities.

Never has there been so much demand for private planes: there were 323,000 flights in October — the busiest month on record, aviation consultancy Argus International told Fortune.

  • NetJets, the world's biggest private jet company, is going to extremes to turn people away. First it raised prices, but that didn't stem jetsetter demand. Then it suspended jet card sales, along with share and lease sales for immediate access.
  • If you have the means, you can join the waitlist — but there will be over 1,500 people ahead of you.

For another sign of the mania, look to the white hot, record-breaking art sales that are drawing in a new crop of bidders (crypto bros, for one) — and giving the old guard a run for their money.

  • "You're no longer just dealing with the tried and true collectors. It's people who are completely new, who now have the wealth to participate, but never thought to do so before," Mari-Claudia Jiménez, who chairs the global fine arts division at Sotheby's, told Axios.
  • One painting sold at a Sotheby's auction this week for $3.2 million, over 10 times more than its high estimate.
  • Last year, Christie’s auctioned 9 artworks for $25 million or more. The auction house did that fourteen times in the last two weeks alone, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

The bottom line: Not even the wealthy can duck the short-on-stuff, high-flying prices of the pandemic-era economy.

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