Despite the global recession, VistaJet has kept on growing as founder and chairman Thomas Flohr finds new strategies and reacts to new market opportunities. As European-based business declines, he has expanded in Africa and Russia and, most recently, China.
Flohr is quiet and unassuming. But he keeps taking delivery of new long-range Bombardier jet and puts them to work. He has a backlog of over $2 billion with Bombardier for Global aircraft, and by 2015 he will have doubled his fleet to 60 of the long-range jets.
Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet said, “These fast-growth markets are invariably underpinned by the ongoing and rapid growth in global commodity markets and the development of mining and other assets in remote locations, either underserved by commercial airlines or from where direct routes to other key commodity and natural resource market locations do not exist. Moreover, a significant proportion of commodity and natural resource companies operating in today’s markets are founder-owned, which has resulted in the rapid growth of luxury aviation as well as reliable and efficient point-to-point travel.”
When NetJets placed an order last year for 50 Global business jets and up to 70 more on option, Flohr says this was a validation of his own strategy to provide long-range luxury travel with Globals. And while NetJets might have more Globals on order, VistaJet remains the biggest operator of these airplanes that fly around the world day to day. (NetJets won’t start taking deliveries until the fourth quarter of this year.)
VistaJet has continued to grow at 20%-plus per year, and Flohr believes that his regional strategies will maintain that performance. VistaJet aircraft carried 21,000 passengers last year to 874 destinations.
Flohr views the company’s strategy as BRINCmanship – adding Nigeria to the typical list of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Flohr says there is high demand for charter between Abuja, Nigeria, and London or mainland Europe, Novosibirsk to Europe and Lagos, China and the Middle East. Most flights average five to nine hours, but 11-hour missions are not uncommon.
Thomas Flohr added, “Our competitors used to criticize us, and we were viewed as an alternative to fractional ownership. But we’ve seen a shift. Now we’re seen as having created our own space in the top-end, luxury intercontinental market.”
VistaJet’s business is split fifty-fifty between on-demand charter and guaranteed-availability contract of up to 200 on Challenger 605, 850 and Global aircraft. Flohr sees that shifting towards two-thirds guaranteed- availability, but he wants to keep one-third on demand not only to fill deadhead flights but to allow prospective customers to try the aircraft without a longer-term commitment.
Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of VistaJet added, “No one else in the private business aviation sector is taking delivery of brand-new aircraft at the rate we are, nor is anyone more committed to maintaining the youngest fleet in the skies. It is a bold step and another example of our commitment to providing a unique customer experience.”
VistaJet next plans to establish “a formal presence” in China through a partnership with Beijing Airlines. The two operators signed a memorandum of understanding at the ABACE business aviation show in Shanghai in March.
Once finalized, the agreement calls for VistaJet to base an aircraft in Beijing that will operate under the AOC (air operator’s certificate) of Beijing Airlines. The latter, a subsidiary of Air China, will continue to manage its 11-aircraft fleet, soon to be expanded with a BBJ.
Thomas Flohr concluded, “Our clients are buying the cabin staffed with flight attendants, and, for those signing three-year contracts, a guarantee that an air- craft will be available. Always. Those contract customers are supplemented by those seeking on-demand charter. I saw no five-star brand selling to the richest people in the world, how is that possible?”