EBACE Convention News

VistaJet partnership expands charter ops into West Africa

 - May 5, 2010, 10:08 AM

In response to the growing demand for business aircraft in Africa, charter operator VistaJet has launched a regional operation on the West African coast, based out of Lagos, Nigeria. The Switzerland-based company has partnered with Kola Aluko, a West Africa-based businessman and longtime VistaJet client.

The operation will focus on intercontinental flights between West Africa and Europe, as well as intra-regional flights between Nigeria and countries such as Congo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The company has two dedicated Bombardier aircraft serving the area, with a third joining the fleet this month.

VistaJet has already signed contracts with seven customers, who have committed to 1,200 hours annually, and expects these figures to increase as the target clientele recognizes the cost-effectiveness of private aviation. “Business aviation is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity,” Aluko said. “There is a real lack of reliable connectivity in this region.”

The growth of the African middle class is the main driver of the market demand, Aluko said, noting the increase in the banking, mobile phone, and oil and gas industries. “This area is attracting a lot of investment, and we’re confident that West Africa will be a major market,” he said.

Thomas Flohr, VistaJet founder and chairman, said the region “has the potential to become one of VistaJet’s biggest markets” and acknowledged that the growth might bring more competitors to the area. “Will this news attract other people? Absolutely,” he said. “But we’re leading this effort, and competition is always good.”

Although Flohr believes the area has great potential and sees a “significant amount of momentum building,” he said there are some drawbacks to being one of the first operators in the area. In particular, according to Aluko, the infrastructure is “not what it should be.”

Bombardier has relocated three full-time engineers to Lagos to support the region, but a lack of local support has prompted VistaJet (Booth No. 230) to rotate aircraft between Africa and its other locations every two weeks. The company has a fleet of 25 identical Learjet, Challenger 605, Challenger 850 and Global Express XRS aircraft. It also plans to invest in services such as catering and ground handling.