VistaJet

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VistaJet Holding SA
IATA ICAO Callsign
VJT VJT VISTA JET
Founded 2004
Commenced operations 2005
AOC # Malta
Operating bases
Focus cities Global
Frequent-flyer program Program
Fleet size 72 jets, 1 helicopter
Company slogan

Simple. Efficient.
Reliable. Global.

Headquarters Luqa, Malta
Key people
Website https://www.VistaJet.com

VistaJet is a global business aviation company founded in 2004 by Thomas Flohr. The firm flies government, corporate and private clients between any two points, under a "pay for hours flown" fare structure.[1]

The firm's privately owned fleet consists of 72 mid-to-large cabin, ultra-long range Bombardier Global and Challenger business jets, and a helicopter.[2] To date it has flown to 187 countries, 1600 airports and has served over 300,000 passengers.[3] Its headquarters are in Malta, with further offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Dubai.[4][5] The company is one of the top five European unicorn companies by funding.[6]

Business model[edit]

VistaJet’s business model is a “go-anywhere any-time" service, flying to destinations on demand rather than as part of a scheduled route. The jets are owned by the company and are hired out to clients at an hourly rate rather than leased.[7][8]

Prior to founding VistaJet, Flohr would regularly charter aircraft for business use but considered them insufficient value for money, since the plane's size, condition and on-board service level was never known in advance. He noted that on flights costing over $10,000 per hour, coffee was served from Styrofoam cups.[9] His dissatisfaction with the industry prompted him to buy his first plane.[10]

Similarly, VistaJet's business model is a reaction to Flohr's experience of fractional jet ownership, where usage prices tend to be lower but the overall cost of ownership is potentially greater. Fractional owners have no secondary market to sell their fraction to, other than the original vendor, who sets the price and is, in effect, in a monopoly purchaser position.[11]

VistaJet has a European Aircraft Operating Certificate (AOC) in Malta. In countries where airlines are obliged to fly domestically and cannot be the majority owner of an AOC (e.g. the US), VistaJet partners with local operators.[12]

Products[edit]

VistaJet operates two passenger service offerings, named Program and Direct.

The Program is a multi-year subscription, with committed payments securing guaranteed availability to the entire fleet. It is marketed as an alternative to business jet ownership.[13][14][15][16]

Direct sees customers requesting flights directly. It also grants access to preferential rates on empty legs and one-way flights, based on aircraft availability. VistaJet app launched in summer 2017; through the app customers can request flights or be notified about discounted rates for flights within a 2.5 day period where they can fly wherever they want.[17][18]

Fleet[edit]

VistaJet owns and operates Bombardier business jets. VistaJet has the largest owned Bombardier, super-mid to large cabin, business jet fleet in the industry, ensuring it can offer global service

Its current fleet includes:

VistaJet is reportedly Bombardier’s single largest customer.[11] In 2012 the two firms completed the largest transaction in business aviation history, with VistaJet placing firm and option orders for 142 Bombardier Global business jets. The contract was valued at US$7.8 Billion.[19]

In 2013, VistaJet placed a firm order for 20 Challenger 350 jets and options for an additional 20 Challenger 350 jets, worth about US$1.035 Billion.[20]

In 2016 the fleet doubled to over 70 Challenger and Global aircraft and a helicopter.

History[edit]

VistaJet was originally named Air Executive when Flohr founded the business in 2004. Its then-headquarters were in Switzerland, with operations in Austria.

2003-2005[edit]

In 2003 Flohr bought a plane for his own use. He was able to buy this plane and subsequent planes at discounted rates, as sales for private jets had severely weakened post-9/11, a development which Flohr has since attributed as key to the subsequent growth of the business, along with expansion in Eastern European markets and a favourable dollar/euro exchange rate.[21][22][23]

In 2004 Flohr placed his own plane with a small local operator. It was chartered out within two months, making it self-financing; this prompted Flohr to buy a second, bigger plane, which was flying 100 hours per month within three months of purchase. Flohr's interest in private aviation led him to commission a financial analysis of the industry. This study indicated a highly fragmented market, rather than a single global brand; it also indicated that many private jets for hire were in fact owner-operated, available for hire only when not in use by the owner.

To offer "not-subject-to-owner-availability" flights, Flohr needed to break away from the aviation industry's use of home bases, where privately owned charter planes must return to a fixed location in order to be at their owner's disposal. By dispensing with home bases, Flohr's jets could pick up a client from whichever airport was closest to the client's location at the desired departure time.[22]

Flohr formally launched a three-plane fleet in 2005, with flights across the European Union and CIS region.

2006-2009[edit]

In 2008 the firm acquired Bombardier Skyjet International, effectively assuming control of the aircraft manufacturer's executive aircraft charter program, at the same time placing a $1.2bn order for 35 Bombardier business jets, reportedly Bombardier Business Aircraft’s largest-ever single order.[24] The deal included taking over Skyjet’s bases in Farnborough, Dubai and Hong Kong, and made VistaJet the second-largest private jet company outside America.[25] During this period the firm entered private aviation markets in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East[26][27]

During this period the firm also re-designed its aircraft cabins to position them as a branded luxury good.[28] By 2009 the firm was operating a fleet of 23 jets.

2010-2016[edit]

In 2012, VistaJet placed a further order of up to 142 Bombardier Global 5000, 6000, 7000 and 8000 aircraft, with a potential value of $7.8 billion. In 2013, VistaJet placed a further order 20 Bombardier Challenger aircraft, with options for another 20, in a deal worth around $518 million.[29]

The firm expanded its service to America in September 2013 via a partnership with Jet Aviation Flight Services, who initially operated a fleet of Bombardier Global aircraft on VistaJet's behalf. The move was part of VistaJet's strategy to target former and current fractional ownership customers in the US, as well as full aircraft owners.[30]

By 2014 VistaJet had flown over 150,000 passengers. In the same year the firm opened a representative office in New York.[1] In 2015, VistaJet expanded the US fleet available to customers to include the Challenger 350 aircraft, then operated by Priester Aviation.

In March 2015 VistaJet sold its final remaining LearJet 60, ending the company’s association with light jets, and began to exclusively operate Bombardier Challenger and Global aircraft.[31]

In 2015, VistaJet became the first international operator permitted to offer domestic flights in China.[32] In ths same year the company co-published a book with Assouline, titled The Art of Flying.[33][34]

In March 2016, VistaJet moved its corporate headquarters to Malta and took delivery of its 50th Maltese registered aircraft.[35] The company announced adding its 70th aircraft to the fleet in October 2016. The fleet now stands at 71 aircraft and one helicopter.

2017-2018[edit]

In October 2017, based on growth in new customers and increases in flight hours from existing U.S. customers, VistaJet expanded its U.S. based fleet by 50%.[36] In March 2017 the company surpassed 100,000 flights and launched a service to book flights by WeChat.[37] [38][39] In May VistaJet became the first firm in the industry to abolish positioning fees, making the cost of flying more transparent.[40]

In August 2017 VistaJet announced a ground-breaking transaction with investment funds affiliated with Rhône Capital, which have invested $150 million of cash into the business. Together with secondary acquisitions, Rhône will have a $200 million stake in VistaJet, in a transaction valuing VistaJet’s equity on a post-money basis in excess of $2.5 billion. Commenting on the announcement, VistaJet’s Founder and Chairman, Thomas Flohr stated, “With the investment announced today, the equity valuation in excess of $2.5 billion and our fully scalable technology driven business model, VistaJet is ideally placed to take advantage of the opportunities to shape the market as it further develops in the years to come.”[41]

In November 2017 VistaJet announced a worldwide partnership with Christie’s to sponsor the exhibition and tour of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, the most significant auction entirely dedicated to raising funds for philanthropic causes. The tour took highlights of the Rockefellers collection to Hong Kong, London, Paris, Beijing, Los Angeles, Shanghai, ending in New York with the auction.[42]

In September 2018, Vista Global, the holding company of VistaJet, announced it had acquired the fleet and commercial operations of the U.S.-based charter operator and broker XOJET. [43]

Marketing[edit]

Positioning[edit]

In press coverage, the firm's client base has been described as corporations, chairmen, governments and entrepreneurs.[1][44]

Flohr's founding aim was to create an identically branded fleet covering the globe, offering consistent service levels, as “...that concept [did not] exist in private aviation" at the time. In interview, Flohr often categorises VistaJet alongside global luxury service providers from outside the aviation industry. In a 2015 interview with the South China Morning Post, Flohr said: "When you are paying US$2,000 for a hotel suite, you know exactly what you are getting, but it's not the case in business aviation," he says. "That was the starting point for me to create VistaJet."[45]

As part of its positioning, VistaJet utilises brands from the luxury goods sector,[46] including Christofle silverware, personalised catering by Nobu, a curated library from London bookstore Heywood Hill and custom aircraft fragrances by Le Labo.[47]

Livery and cabins[edit]

The VistaJet fleet is identifiable by a livery of silver with a red stripe.[48] These colours were inspired by the aluminium build of Flohr’s first plane.[49] VistaJet's visual presentation is identical across its fleet; the industry norm in private business aviation is to operate unbranded planes, since most such planes are owner-operated.

The firm has commissioned artists for nose art projects, for example in 2011 the street artist Retna was commissioned to graffiti the tail of the firm's largest corporate jet, a Bombardier Global Express XRS,[50] and in 2013 an Ian Davenport design was commissioned by VistaJet and Fabergé, for the tail of a VistaJet Bombardier Global 6000. The Davenport art piece coincided with a promotional campaign that saw Fabergé eggs offered to VistaJet clients as an in-flight jewellery purchase.[51]

Safety record[edit]

VistaJet received the EBAA Diamond Safety of Flight Award in May 2016, for surpassing 50 years, or 100,000 hours, of flying without an accident.[52] Subsequently, VistaJet claims to have achieved 120,000 safe flights with 300,000 passengers and counting.[53][5]

VistaJet is a Wyvern Wingman certified operator, which provides for commitments to annually audited safety and risk management practices.

All VistaJet flight crew (pilots and cabin hostesses) have to complete simulator training twice a year which is above industry standard.

Finances[edit]

VistaJet is privately owned and does not make its financial statements fully public. In an interview, Flohr stated the firm has positive net cash flow and has always made operational profits.[11][54]

In 2017, global private equity firm Rhône Group invested $150 million cash into VistaJet together with secondary acquisitions, Rhône holds a $200 million stake in VistaJet. This ground breaking investment transaction serves as another key milestone in VistaJet’s growth story and a major vote of confidence in the company’s strategy and business model, valuing VistaJet’s equity on a post-money basis in excess of $2.5 billion.[55][56][57]

VistaJet performed strongly in the Middle East, with the number of new Program customers growing by 50% year on year. The company recorded a particularly robust performance in the UAE, and the growing markets of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman. The UAE accounted for the majority of flights in the region (at 28%), and the number of flight hours (37%).

Both flight hours in the ME and flight numbers increasing significantly. In the fourth quarter of last year, the number of flights to the UAE grew by 44%, and to Oman by 300%.

VistaJet continued to grow its market share in the key markets of the US and Asia. While the market as a whole in the US grew by low single digits, VistaJet saw its flight hours increase by 38% year-on-year, and the number of flights by 49%. One of the main drivers of this growth was the sustained demand on the West Coast of the US, particularly from the Tech sector.

Strong growth in Asia, with flight hours increasing by 16%. The fastest growing countries in the region were China and India. With its growing economy and increasing number of global entrepreneurs, India is set to be one of the most exciting markets for the private aviation sector in the world over the next 5 years. In addition, the economy in China is proving more resilient than many expected, meaning that the private aviation sector is likely to flourish in the country throughout 2018.

VistaJet cemented its position as one of the leading operators in Europe in 2017. Europe accounted for 41% of the total hours flown by the company in the period, with the UK making up 26%, France 19% and Italy 11% of regional flights.

Competitors[edit]

In press coverage VistaJet is often compared to Warren Buffett’s NetJets,[1] although NetJets primarily operates a fractional ownership model that requires clients to own stakes in the planes they use.[44][58]

After commissioning a financial study of the competitive landscape in the private aviation industry, Flohr once commented: “Everyone was one-off. There was no consistent product around the world and no simple business model.”[1]

Thomas Flohr[edit]

Flohr is the founder, Chairman of VistaJet. He is a Swiss national.[59]

After school he applied unsuccessfully for flight training at Lufthansa's offices in Hamburg.[49] He studied business and political science at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.[60]

Flohr started his career in finance,[11] notably the Chicago-based technology firm Comdisco,[49] where he became President of their European division, then President of the worldwide asset finance division. He would later buy out most of Comdisco’s European operations through his Swiss-based group Comprendium Investment, which he still controls.[59]

He lives in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[61] As a hobby he competes in motorsport, including the East African Safari Rally and the European Le Mans Series GT3.

Flohr was married to Katharina Flohr (née Konecny), formerly creative director of Fabergé and editor of Russian Vogue. He has one daughter, Nina, who is a former Brand Director of VistaJet.[7]

In 2016 Flohr was named Entrepreneur of the Year by The Living Legends of Aviation awards. He spends over 800 hours in the air each year.[62]

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External links[edit]