VistaJet sees airline model, options as keys to expansion

 - November 16, 2008, 9:16 AM

Fast-growing executive charter group VistaJet yesterday spelled out details of its new Flight Solutions portfolio. The Swiss-based group says that by operating closer to an airline business model it can radically change the economics of private aviation to make it a more viable option to a wider customer base.

“We have no base,” VistaJet chairman Thomas Flohr told a MEBA show press conference yesterday. “The sky is our base.”  What he meant by that is that the company’s fleet–which is being built up to include more than 90 aircraft–will be moved around the world according to where their charter bookings take them and will then, in theory, be well positioned for their next mission.

Nevertheless, Flohr has announced aggressive expansion plans into the flourishing Middle East private jet market, rolling out Flight Solutions, which include Jet Membership, Partnership and Ownership options.

Jet Membership is the block-charter program that VistaJet took over through its acquisition of Bombardier’s Skyjet International division earlier this year. This is aimed mainly at customers who want only 25 to 50 flight hours at fixed, prepaid rates and with guaranteed aircraft availability. These flights are operated by Vistajet and a network of approved charter operators around the world.

Under the Partnership option, clients can buy between 100 and 600 flight hours. All of these flights are operated by VistaJet aircraft, with the operator committing to make 400 flight hours in each aircraft available to the program’s clients and then making additional hours available for ad hoc charter on the open market. Customers commit to a specific aircraft type but can then opt for a larger or smaller jet for specific trips at the rates applicable in each case.

The Ownership option is for people who want to own the aircraft on which they fly. VistaJet is selling Bombardier aircraft which it ordered some time ago and so can pass on the acquisition cost savings compared with the current prices for these models. When the owners aren’t flying, these aircraft can be chartered to third parties and they are able to share some of the revenues that these operations yield.

According to the company, whichever option people choose they are likely to enjoy flight-hour rates that are 15 to 20 percent less than those offered by rival block-charter or fractional-ownership programs. For instance, under Partnership, the occupied flight-hour-rate for a Learjet 60XR would be 5,900 euros (approximately $7,500).

“Our Flight Solutions open up a new chapter in business aviation, revolutionizing the way people use business jets,” said Flohr. “For example, a customer may purchase a new Challenger 605 and begin flying immediately, paying one simple quarterly figure based on their hourly commitment, which in many cases, is lower than the traditional direct operating costs of the aircraft.”