EBACE 2011: VistaJet orders 18 Bombardier jets

 - May 17, 2011, 11:45 PM

VistaJet put itself back in full-blown growth mode yesterday, placing a major order with Bombardier for 18 jets in a move that will take its fleet to more than 50 aircraft. The $383 million deal signed here at EBACE includes 12 Globals and Challengers and six Learjet 60 XRs. Deliveries should begin next year.

Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet, said his company’s current order backlog is valued at $1.3 billion. On order are 10 Global 6000s, six Challenger 605s, 11 Learjet 85s and six Learjet 60 XRs. VistaJet operates only Bombardier aircraft and prior to the financial crisis had been working toward a high-volume business plan that would see its fleet rise above 100 aircraft. Between this month and November, it is due to take three more of the previously ordered Challengers and a pair of Global Express jets.

Flohr pointed out 75 percent of the operator’s flights now originate from or go to “fast-growth markets,” such as Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria, China and the Middle East, instead of 25 percent four years ago. Hence, the need for ultra-long-range, fast jets. “With the Global 6000, you can fly from London to Abuja, Nigeria, and back on the same day,” he said. Most international flights are in the five- to nine-hour bracket, he added. [The Global 6000 is the renamed Global XRS featuring the Global Vision cockpit.–Ed.]

While 2011 is “off to a good start,” Flohr said 2010 saw a 25-percent increase in revenues over the previous year. He added some 20,000 passengers traveled aboard VistaJet aircraft last year. He said this is the result of a strategy “centered on [the passenger’s] actual requirements, rather than a perceived desire for abstract ownership.”

VistaJet offers various contract options, including 100-hour and 200-hour programs with guaranteed availability and a fixed hourly rate. “We take the asset risk,” Flohr insisted. The company also offers conventional on-demand charter flights. The Swiss-based operator aims to keep a fleet of young aircraft, with an average age of less than two years and no individual aircraft more than three years old.

“The first quarter of this year has been blockbuster for us,” Flohr told AIN. “The world crisis is far behind and we are fully booked and flying longer ranges. Focusing on the top of the market has paid off.” Since around October of last year, VistaJet has seen flight bookings increase by as much as 30 to 40 percent.

According to Flohr, charter rates at the top end of the market are returning to pre-crisis levels. “But our success is due to a combination of top-quality service and rates, and the fact that we can provide guaranteed availability,” he said. “We now see the market being polarized between fractional ownership and us. What the rest [that is, traditional charter operators] are doing is a completely different business model.”