|Fleet size||71 jets, 1 helicopter|
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.
The firm's privately owned fleet consists of 71 mid-to-large cabin, ultra-long range Bombardier Global and Challenger business jets, and a helicopter. To date it has flown to 186 countries and 1486 airports, and has served over 210,000 passengers. Its headquarters are in Malta, with further offices in London, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai.
VistaJet’s business model is a “go-anywhere any-time" service, flying to destinations as requested, 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.
VistaJet's business model is said by Flohr to be a reaction to his 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.
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 and China), VistaJet partners with local operators.
VistaJet owns and operates Bombardier business jets. Its current fleet includes:
- Bombardier Global 6000
- Bombardier Global 5000
- Bombardier Challenger 850
- Bombardier Challenger 605
- Bombardier Challenger 350
As part of its market positioning, the firm buys only new jets and operates them while still under warranty. The average age of the fleet is two years old.
VistaJet is reportedly Bombardier’s single largest customer. 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.
VistaJet was originally named Air Executive when Flohr founded the business in 2004. Its then-headquarters were in Switzerland, with operations in Austria.
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.
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.
Flohr formally launched a three-plane fleet in 2005, with flights across the European Union and CIS region.
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. 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. During this period the firm entered private aviation markets in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East
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.
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.
By 2014 VistaJet had flown over 150,000 passengers. In the same year the firm opened a representative office in New York. 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.
In 2015, VistaJet became the first international operator permitted to offer domestic flights in China.
In March 2016, VistaJet moved its corporate headquarters to Malta and took delivery of its 50th Maltese registered aircraft. The company announced adding its 70th aircraft to the fleet in October 2016. The fleet now stands at 71 aircraft and one helicopter.
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, notably Four Seasons and The Peninsula. 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."
As part of its positioning, VistaJet utilises brands from the luxury goods sector, including Christofle silverware, personalised catering by Nobu, a curated library from London bookstore Heywood Hill and custom aircraft fragrances by Le Labo.
VistaJet operates two passenger service offerings, named Program and On Demand.
On Demand arranges ad hoc one-off flights with VistaJet's fleet, based around the availability of aircraft when not being utilized by Program customers.
Livery and cabins
The VistaJet fleet is identifiable by a livery of silver with a red stripe, repeated across the cabin's interior detailing. These colours were inspired by the aluminium build of Flohr’s first plane. 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, 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.
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. Subsequently, VistaJet claims to have achieved 200,000 hours of safe operations, with 210,000 passengers across 80,000 flights.
VistaJet is a Wyvern Wingman certified operator, which provides for commitments to annually audited safety and risk management practices.
VistaJet is privately owned and does not make its financial statements public, although it does release data concerning its flight traffic. In interview, Flohr states the firm has positive net cash flow and has always made operational profits.
Global flight traffic increased 23% in the first six months of 2016, with passenger numbers rising 20% over the same period. VistaJet reports that its fleet now performs approximately 100 flights a day, and the average number of annual contractual flight hours has risen to 120 hours per new customer. Flights to China quadrupled over the previous year, with flights to India increasing by 50%.
The firm reports significant growth in flight traffic to the United States. Its US flight bookings increased 137 percent between 2015 and 2016, with 65 percent of new US customers coming from corporations and Fortune 500 companies. International and American passengers arriving and departing from the U.S. also increased 122 percent between 2015 and 2016. The US is now VistaJet’s number-one country for takeoffs and landings.
In press coverage VistaJet is often compared to Warren Buffett’s NetJets, although NetJets primarily operates a fractional ownership model that requires clients to own stakes in the planes they use.
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.”
Flohr is the founder, Chairman of VistaJet. He is a Swiss national.
Flohr started his career in finance, notably the Chicago-based technology firm Comdisco, 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.
At Comdisco 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. His dissatisfaction with the industry prompted him to buy his first plane.
He lives in St. Moritz, Switzerland. As a hobby he competes in motorsport, including two starts in the East African Safari Rally in a Porsche 911 RS; he also competed in the 2015 European Le Mans Series GT3 for Ferrari, where he finished second overall, including a win at the Red Bull Ring alongside co-driver Francesco Castellacci.
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. He is a collector of German contemporary art, including works by Richter, Kiefer and Polke.
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.
- Cave, Andrew. "The Man Who Could Prove Warren Buffett Wrong About Aviation". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
When you see the $55m asset of a major company sitting in a remote airport in Norilsk, Russia, or Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, it’s not because somebody is on holiday, it’s because a captain of industry, chairman or chief executive is considering a major investment.
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