July 13, 2023
Private jets have already begun piling up outside the small town of Sun Valley, Idaho, as some of the world’s most powerful people—among them, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Bob Iger, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg—head to Allen & Co’s annual conference, also known as “summer camp for billionaires.”
Business Insider reports that the Friedman Memorial Airport has already begun experiencing delays from the traffic ahead of the event, which is set to kick off on Wednesday, July 11 and go through Friday, July 14. As of Tuesday afternoon, the airport was experiencing inbound-flight delays averaging about 1 hour and 55 minutes, the flight-tracking website FlightAware reported. Flights departing from the airport don’t appear to be affected.
A spokesperson for the airport did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment because the agency says it does not manage the airport.
Since Tuesday morning, more than 40 private jets have flown through the nearby Friedman Memorial Airport ahead of the conference, with at least another 100 scheduled to arrive throughout the day, FlightAware said. Some planes associated with companies such as Nike already have landed in Sun Valley. Disney CEO Bob Iger was also pictured arriving at the event Tuesday.
The New York Times reported that more than 300 flights passed through the airport last year. For reference, the airport accommodates about 40 planes on a typical day. In 2021, the airport was so swamped with private jets that the FAA delayed incoming flights until traffic dropped.
Most of the incoming flights are operated by NetJets—a private-charter company that is the world’s biggest by fleet size and operates Embraer Phenoms and Cessna Citations alongside the giant $75 million Bombardier Global 7500.
It’s common for deep-pocket flyers to use private operators such as NetJets because it’s harder to track their location. Apple CEO Tim Cook—who is on the guest list for Sun Valley 2023—has been flying on charters instead of the company’s corporate planes since 2017.
Apple previously said the policy was implemented “in the interests of security and efficiency based on our global profile and the highly visible nature of … Cook’s role as CEO.”
The world’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, has been avoiding the public eye after selling his private jet in October because of security concerns. It’s unclear whether the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton CEO will attend this year’s summit.
Chris Pomeroy, the director of Friedman Memorial Airport, told the Times last year that he had spent months preparing for the conference in Sun Valley—a town with a population of 1,800. If he’s not careful, he said the event could cause major backups at the airport.
Pomeroy said there had been times when jets were forced to circle over the airport or park on the tarmac for more than an hour while waiting for the runway to open up.
The event has previously been the backdrop for several major business deals, including Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post and Disney‘s $19 billion ABC acquisition. Executives spend time at the summit taking part in tennis matches, golf outings, whitewater rafting, and sessions on subjects including creativity and the climate crisis.
This year’s guest list for the event reportedly includes several major players. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman are expected to attend the event alongside Jeff Bezos, according to Bloomberg. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates are also on the guest list, Variety reports.
Research contact: @BusinessInsider