VistaJet’s business model of serving a global charter clientele with a fleet of company-owned business jets is paying off during these times of economic uncertainty, according to Ian Moore, chief commercial officer for the 12-year-old company. More recently, VistaJet transitioned its all-Bombardier fleet into large-cabin jets such as the Global 6000 and Challenger 350, which are both on display this week at ABACE 2016, further reflecting the desires of its high-net-worth-individual clients for long-range flights.
In China, VistaJet has partnered with Apex Air to operate a Challenger 850 for trips in mainland China and flights from China to other Asia Pacific locations. Apex was chosen, Moore explained, because the company shares VistaJet’s “can-do approach” and is also “maniacal about safety. We have a like-minded way of seeing opportunities.”
While VistaJet has its own aircraft operating certificates (AOCs) in Malta, where its operational headquarters is now located, and Austria, it partners in other countries where it can’t be the majority owner of an AOC holder. “Having a partner is crucial,” Moore said.
In China, Apex Air recently received approval for international flights, so customers can use the B-registered Challenger 850 to fly inside China and to other countries from China. In the U.S., VistaJet partners with Jet Aviation and Priester Aviation. But in every case, VistaJet owns all of its aircraft, and the fleet now numbers about 60 Bombardier jets.
The China market is a good example of how VistaJet builds a new market. This begins by partnering with a local company such as Apex Air, which serves to introduce customers to the VistaJet level of service. Once introduced, these customers grow into using VistaJet for travel outside of the local region, further expanding their exposure to VistaJet and its global reach.
“It is our unique selling proposition,” Moore explained, “our ability to connect around the globe.” Part of this, too, is that all of the VistaJet aircraft cabins are outfitted the same, so it becomes a familiar and comfortable environment for customers.
What VistaJet is not is a one-stop shop for all potential charter customers, Moore said. And this explains why it no longer flies smaller jets. “We want a specific customer–the global traveler,” he said. Until about six years ago, VistaJet was still flying a fleet of Learjet 60s, but that market wasn’t doing as well, and the company refocused on the large-cabin market and the high-level customer experience that customers expected in the larger aircraft.
Another advantage of the larger aircraft is that they can easily be repositioned anywhere in the world to serve demand, which is much harder to do efficiently with smaller jets. In addition, the target customers for larger jets–high-net-worth individuals, perhaps with multiple homes around the world–are much less affected by variations in the economic cycle.
As a pure charter provider that owns its aircraft, VistaJet is benefitting from the trend for customers who don’t want to own their aircraft. “We see a lot of people getting out of ownership and freeing up their capital,” Moore said. “We are a perfect play for that. A lot of people are seeing flying their own corporate aircraft as costing twice as much as they thought.” But with charter, he added, customers know exactly what their costs are and they don’t have to tie up their capital in an asset that will likely depreciate in value.
“We’ve only just started,” Moore said. “We’re only two to three percent market share worldwide. Even if the market stays flat, we’ll still take some share from our competition, which is owned aircraft. Most people fly 200 to 300 hours a year, and it makes sense to fly with us. Flying around privately and having the time-saving and anonymity is very compelling. We’ve still got a lot of runway for us to take off.”