Just when you thought Burning Man couldn’t jump the shark harder, a new private airline reminds us that the playa has officially become the Black Rock Country Club. Burner Air, a boutique airline based in Santa Monica, offers discerning passengers direct one-way and round-trip flights to the annual bacchanal, departing from L.A., San Francisco, and Reno.
The company’s website — worth checking out for the desaturated Burning Man stock photos — promises a “premium flight experience” that avoids traffic, which is perhaps a tasteful way of saying “avoids poor people.” Among Burner Air’s fleet is a PC12, a “popular executive aircraft” that seats up to eight people. All planes are “Burning Man approved” and FAA-certified.
Here's the part you've been waiting for: Estimated one-way fares from SF start at a cool $1,199, while a round-trip runs $2,199. (Bargain hunters take note: Passengers can also charter an entire plane for $8,183 one-way and $14,623 for a round-trip.) Passengers deplane at the Black Rock Municipal Airport, i.e., a dirt strip about a mile from most campsites.
A private flight to the Burn is the latest salvo in the ongoing class skirmish that has transformed the annual pilgrimage into what many see as a playground for elite party crashers. In February, Bloomberg published an exposé that portrayed a festival overrun with VC investors, gated luxury compounds akin to a “pop-up W hotel,” and underpaid sherpas catering to billionaires who seemed to have teleported onto the playa from Silicon Valley, SF, and Hollywood. In April, Jim Tananbaum, the VC investor who was one of the more divisive figures among the festival’s nouveau riche attendees, resigned from the board.
In December 2014, Larry Harvey, a festival co-founder, wrote on Burning Man’s blog, “The curdling gaze of celebrities or the intimidating presence of the wealthy cannot possibly inhibit the remaining 99 percent of our citizens from participating. What I think these camps are really guilty of is being gauche. This is not so much about morals, it is more about manners, and we’re convinced bad manners can be mended.”
Private planes careening into the desert bearing a cargo of wealthy passengers will surely spread some goodwill.