XOJet chooses new leadership

 - October 27, 2008, 10:57 AM

Former airline executive David Siegel has eschewed big iron in favor of business jets, having been named president and CEO of California-based XOJet, a rapidly growing private aviation company.

Siegel is the former CEO of Gate Gourmet and US Airways and has been a member of XOJet’s board of directors since last year. Earlier in his career, he served in various senior management roles at Continental Airlines and Continental Express.

As CEO of the latter, he negotiated the largest aircraft order in regional airline history for 275 jets as the launch customer for the Embraer ERJ 145/135 regional jet program–part of Continental Express’s ambitious growth plan that produced a five-fold revenue growth from approximately $200 million to more than $1 billion within only a few years.

He also previously served as director of corporate planning at Northwest Airlines and still sits on the board of the investment firm Texas Pacific Group (TPG), which owned Continental Airlines. He was also on the boards of a couple of other aviation-related companies.

“It’s good to be back flying airplanes,” he told AIN, after his recent stint with Gate Gourmet, where he remains nonexecutive chairman. “This opportunity for me seems more like my days at Continental Express because the regional business is probably closer between the general aviation space and the mainline legacy carriers.”

The business jet space is probably about a $30 billion business, he said, which is about the same size as the regional business and about the same size as the low-cost carriers. “But it’s not talked about as much and it is going to go through a profound, fundamental change in the next few years, driven by new aircraft that are available and different operators like ourselves with a better business model to deliver that lift,” Siegel explained.

He predicted there will be consolidation and shakeout as players such as XOJet achieve scale, and he added that “we hope to scale it fairly rapidly.” Founded in 2006, XOJet says it combines private jet ownership, membership and on-demand travel focused on providing the highest level of customer service at every point
in the client’s experience.

Backed by TPG, which it had as a customer, XOJet recently secured $2.46 billion for fleet expansion, of which $1.5 billion comes from Tasameem, the real estate investment arm of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. XOJet operates an all-new fleet of Citation Xs and took delivery of its first Challenger 300 last month.

According to ARG/US, XOJet’s fleet is expected to reach 128 aircraft worth $3.1 billion by 2012. “We are backed by TPG and we’ve got the right business model,” Siegel said at last month’s NBAA Convention. “I came in to strengthen the team.”