The Irish high-flyer who handles the jet set
Peter Le Bas, a graduate of Rathmines College of Commerce, left a recession-hit Dublin in 1985 to pursue acting in Hollywood. Now he’s a handler for the stars
PAMPERING THE JET SET can be tricky. Indulging whims, tempers and egos means promising the impossible.
“Celebrities are very high maintenance,” says Peter Le Bas, an Irishman whose business charters private jets for household names. “A-listers expect to walk through airports and step on to an aeroplane. Immigration, customs, anything that stalls them along the way is the biggest problem in the world.”
Based in Shannon and California, Le Bas International handles the aviation demands of film stars, bands, royalty, heads of state, Fortune 500 companies and sports teams.
It starts with procuring the right aircraft, whether it’s a long-term lease for Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour or getting Brad Pitt on the nearest jet, and then overseeing every add-on demanded. As chief executive, Le Bas travels on many of the high-profile trips himself so he can be on hand to diffuse everything from fears of flying to logistical nightmares. Occasionally, it involves dealing with overexuberant stars.
“We’ve had some of the top A-listers get rowdy to the point where the aeroplane has to land [unexpectedly]. When that happens it becomes a bigger issue. You can’t mess on aeroplanes anymore. The captain just won’t put up with it. Thirty-thousand feet isn’t the place to go crazy; you’re better off getting a boat if you’re going to do that,” he says.
“But, honestly, rock’n’roll has changed a bit from the old days. The older bands now have their grandchildren with them, so they’re just looking for a comfortable bed to sleep in, whereas before they’d be up for days, throwing televisions out of hotel windows. They’ve realised they have to pay for it now.”
Le Bas, a 47-year-old from Rathgar in Dublin, recently oversaw the opening of Madonna’s MDNA tour in the Middle East. Though the singer’s exhibitionism in Istanbul generated headlines, behind the scenes Le Bas ensured the shows weren’t scuppered over bureaucratic entanglements and the sort of last-minute orchestrations most people would lose sleep over. “When 100,000 people are showing up in a stadium to see this one singer, there are ways around it,” he says with a grin. “You treat it as if it’s of national importance.”
Madonna’s crew, Le Bas explains, is the kind of organisation that puts performers through two-hour daily workouts. So when they decide that switching airports shortly before take-off will save 30 minutes’ transit time, he doesn’t question it – even if it means rearranging the flight plans, landing permits and handlers for two aircraft.
“As long as the client knows what they want, we can make it happen,” he says. “We have to answer the phone within 20 seconds, day or night. You’ll never get a voicemail or be sent around in circles. So if you call and say, ‘I need to get out of here as soon as possible,’ we’ll probably be able to move just about anywhere in two hours. If it’s LA, we can do it within 30, 40 minutes from the word go – and that’s getting the crew out and the aeroplane fuelled.”