VistaJet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr launched Vista Global one month ago as an “investor vehicle” that will “spearhead the consolidation of the fragmented and expanding business aviation market.” Though many in the business aviation industry were initially puzzled by the move, the strategy became somewhat clearer a week later, when Vista Global announced it was acquiring U.S.-based charter firm XOJet for an undisclosed amount.
Vista Global is essentially now the parent of 14-year-old premium charter outfit VistaJet (Booth 4114, Static SD50), in addition to two new subsidies simultaneously launched alongside the new company—Vista Lease, a business aircraft leasing and financing company, and TechX, an aviation technology firm offering end-to-end solutions for both customers and operators. Once the sale closes, expected later next month, XOJet will also be added to this list.
The launch of Dubai-based Vista Global was backed by Rhône Group, a longstanding supporter of Flohr’s businesses. The financial group invested an additional $200 million to strengthen Vista Global’s balance sheet as it seeks acquisitions.
“Vista Global has been my vision ever since I started VistaJet in 2004. I wanted to create something truly new, something that would industrialize and consolidate the fragmented business aviation market across the entire range of flight service offerings,” said Flohr. “Vista Global is unrivaled in its service to offer all clients the full range of business aviation services on a global scale—flights, technology, and finance…Our mission is to provide customer-centric solutions for every segment of business aviation.”
Part of that consolidation strategy includes buying XOJet’s business aviation fleet and commercial operations. To meet U.S. DOT foreign ownership rule, “XOJet’s regulated air carrier will continue to be independently operated in a joint venture under U.S. control and leadership,” it said. XOJet will also continue to operate under its own name.
According to Vista Global, the acquisition is a “major strategic step forward” that builds on its existing global offering and reinforces its established position in North America. XOJet—which is currently owned by capital investor groups TPG and Mubadala—is the third-largest air charter operator in the U.S., according to the latest data from Argus International. The company’s owned fleet of 43 Bombardier Challenger 300s and Cessna Citation Xs flew 46,739 hours between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, the Argus data shows.
“XOJet will be our value air charter proposition,” Vista Global chief commercial officer Ian Moore told AIN. “It will appeal to those who fly less than 50 hours a year and don’t mind riding in older super-midsize jets.” Meanwhile, VistaJet will continue to be aimed at the premium charter customer who flies 50 to 600 hours per year, offering both guaranteed availability and younger super-midsize and large-cabin jets.
Moore said there are no plans to change XOJet’s fleet composition, which includes Bombardier Challenger 300s and Cessna Citation Xs, despite VistaJet’s history as an all-Bombardier operator (it has a fleet of more than 70 Challenger 350s, 605s, and 850s, as well as Global 5000s and 6000s). “We will keep the Citation Xs at XOJet,” he confirmed. “We always intended to be a multi-OEM operator at some point.”
And while XOJet will help to further open the U.S. market for Vista Global, Moore said the plans are to expand XOJet as a global air charter operator. "XOJet won't be just limited to the U.S.," he added.
Meanwhile, Vista Lease will start operations next year, staffed by Flohr and “his team from a former aircraft leasing and trading business.” Moore said the new leasing arm will focus on the super-midsize and large-cabin jet segments, which VistaJet already knows well.
Vista Lease will offer wet leases on the four new Global 7500s that Vista Global has on order, as well as preowned business jets in these categories. Its first 7500 is slated to be delivered in the second half of next year.
According to Moore, Vista Lease is intended to fill the gap above VistaJet’s charter offerings, providing a turnkey solution for aircraft ownership. Thus, Vista Lease will source, buy, and operate business jets for its clients. These aircraft will be used exclusively by the leasing client and won’t be used for charter flights under VistaJet or XOJet, said Moore.
Vista’s TechX division will build on the aircraft and crew scheduling and charter booking software developed internally for VistaJet. TechX already has 50 technology specialists and will create end-to-end services to allow companies to find customers, manage charter bookings, track flights, and plan trips directly with operators on a single platform, Vista Global said.
Moore explained that TechX will now license the software to third-party charter operators, allowing smaller firms to have access to technology developed by a big company like VistaJet. “It will bring a powerful and affordable scheduling and charter booking platform to operators with as few as three or four aircraft,” said Moore. XOJet will also use this software, he added.
Tech X is likely where future acquisitions will be concentrated, according to Moore. “We think VistaJet and XOJet will sufficiently cover the on-demand side of the market for us, and we can scale up Vista Lease on our own,” he said. “But there’s a lot of opportunity on the software side, so that’s where we’ll look for acquisitions.”