For $995 (€880), Love Cloud will fly you and a partner in a private aircraft for 45 minutes so that you can have sex.
Granted, you don’t have to have sex on the aircraft. You could pay $1,195 (€1,050) to get married on board. For $100 (€88) more, it can be booked for a romantic one-course meal; for $1,595 (€1,400), you’ll get three courses. With any package, an extra $300 (€260) will get you a bottle of bubbly and a ride to the tarmac in a limousine.
But according to Andy Johnson, 40, a pilot and the founder of Love Cloud, its Mile High Club Flight, which comes with a commemorative membership card signed by the pilot, remains the business's most popular offering.
"You come with a smile on your face, and you leave with a bigger smile on your face," said Johnson, a fast-talking father who is from Virginia and lives in Summerlin, at the western edge of Las Vegas.
He spoke with great passion and good humour about his business, which operates out of the North Las Vegas Airport, calling its two Cessna 414 aircrafts "magic carpets" and gleefully recounting the kinks and quirks of some of its more memorable clients, including a couple that showed up dressed as a pilot and flight attendant. Love Cloud mostly books couples but has accommodated groups of three or four, with an additional fee of $200 (€180) per person.
Those who buy the Mile High Club Flight will find an aircraft decked out with a twin mattress on the floor and several pillows, all ensconced in red satin. A curtain separates the passengers from the pilot, who wears noise-cancelling headphones and remains in the cockpit for the duration of the flight. Yes, the aircraft and its bedding are cleaned after each trip.
Customers who purchase a Romantic Dinner Flight will find the mattress replaced with a table, chairs and a small bar. But aside from the optional Champagne, no alcohol is served on Love Cloud flights.
“We help keep people from divorcing, I’ll tell you that right now,” Johnson said. That may sound like hyperbole, but some customers said that the experience was good for their relationship.
Lost in the moment, one couple ended up pressed for time: 'I never got dressed faster in my life'
Chris Gutierrez Lopez, 30, a customer support agent who lives in Rohnert Park, California, surprised his partner of 10 years, Diego Fuentes, with a Love Cloud dinner flight in November after the two went through a rough patch.
“I was in trouble with my partner, so I had to make sure it was more for him than me,” Lopez said. “That’s why I got the romantic package rather than the mile high.” Once on board, the two were served a three-course meal from Mezzo Bistro, a restaurant in Las Vegas, which provides the food on all dinner flights.
His plan was a success. “When we finally got into the airplane, he was smiling ear to ear,” said Lopez, who added that, if they book another flight, he plans to do things a bit differently. “Next time it’s mile high,” he said.
Frelima Howard, 45, a party planner in Victorville, California, received the mile-high flight as a "late wedding gift from" a friend in 2016.
“My husband and I had joined the mile-high club before, so to be able to do it privately was great,” she said. “It was really nice and exclusive and private.”
Howard lives about three hours from Las Vegas and considers herself a connoisseur of the city's attractions, including escape rooms, zip lines and helicopter rides that she said she has taken "way too many times." But she and her husband, Keith Howard, agreed that their Love Cloud ride remains their favourite experience in the city.
“It just wasn’t long enough,” said Keith Howard, 56. His wife agreed. Lost in the moment, the couple ended up pressed for time. “I never got dressed faster in my life,” she said.
A mile-high flight was also given as a gift to Katherin Nguyen, 28, an X-ray technologist in Houston, who said her husband, Brandon Nguyen, surprised her with it while they were visiting Las Vegas in January for her birthday.
“I’ve always wanted to do that, but it, like, only happens in the movies,” she said. “I didn’t think there was anything out there like that.”
Brian Álvarez, an anthropologist whose company Psionic Artworks offers a range of services that include cultural tours of Las Vegas, said that Love Cloud follows a historical pattern in its home city.
Johnson and Blake also think their business would make a great reality TV show, akin to Bravo's Below Deck
“We’ve always been on the cutting edge of entrepreneurialism in the entertainment world,” Álvarez said. He considers Love Cloud, which combines elements of attractions like helicopter tours, wedding chapels and hotel honeymoon suites, to be part of a lineage of local novelties like underwater scuba slot machines and a topless dancer who used to perform dressed as a polar bear on a synthetic iceberg.
Johnson, who also works as a commercial pilot for Mesa Airlines, has aviation in his blood. "I could fly before I could even drive," he said. His father was a naval aviator and worked as a pilot. By 20, Johnson was teaching flight lessons; and at 24, he was operating Tidewater, a flight school and aircraft rental business in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
According to court records, Johnson's pilot's license was temporarily suspended in 2009 by the Federal Aviation Administration after improper aircraft certifications related to Tidewater in 2007 and 2008. His license was revoked in 2011 for flying during his suspension.
In 2012, after a minor aircraft accident that occurred during his revocation, Johnson pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless operation of an aircraft and served 20 days in federal prison. He ended up filing for bankruptcy and moving back in with his parents.
“Talk about a blow,” Johnson said of that time. “We all make mistakes. That’s it, that’s life.”
In 2014, he moved from his parents’ home in Virginia into a motel in North Las Vegas. “It was just kind of rebuilding your life and starting anew,” he said. “And that’s what Vegas has done for me.”
Within a few months of arriving, he had gotten Love Cloud off the ground. “What better city to have a second chance than Vegas?” he said. Johnson hired other pilots to fly his aircrafts for Love Cloud until he got his license reinstated in June 2018. His business and aircrafts are up to code.
Johnson's business partner, Tony Blake, 52, who is also a pilot, was aware of Johnson's past when he joined the company full time last year. "He had a very tough go of it, and here we are 10 years later," Blake said. "He's really turned a corner, and he's a better man for it."
Blake is more concerned with the future than the past. He said they are working on expanding Love Cloud to Los Angeles. Johnson and Blake also think their business would make a great reality TV show, akin to Bravo's Below Deck.
"I mean, you can't make this stuff up, man," Johnson said. "We've got a lot of good material." – This article originally appeared in The New York Times