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Fri 27 Nov 2009 04:00 AM

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Wings of change

CEO Middle East asks Thomas Flohr, VistaJet founder and chairman, how he plans to take the private jet company into the next level despite the slowdown in the business travel industry.

Wings of change
Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman, VistaJet.
Wings of change
VistaJet’s revenues in H1 of 2009 were up 22 percent despite contraction in the private business aviation market.

CEO Middle East asks Thomas Flohr, VistaJet founder and chairman, how he plans to take the private jet company into the next level despite the slowdown in the business travel industry.

VistaJet is the world's second largest private jet company with the largest wholly-owned commercial fleet outside the Americas.

VistaJet's fleet of new Bombardier jets have a consistent luxurious feel guaranteeing availability and the highest service levels in the skies. With two solutions - Program and On Demand - the company's unique business model offers clients an innovative way to fly, allowing all the benefits of partnering with VistaJet's fleet without the capital commitment, concerns and constraints connected to fractional ownership.

The Program Partnership Solution is built around customers who fly often, more than 100 hours per year, and want guaranteed availability and the consistency of a luxury journey. The On-Demand Solution is for customers who fly only occasionally, but when they do, it's a very special trip and they expect the VistaJet luxury for their family or their business colleagues.

VistaJet customers can also take advantage of the largest single service area in business aviation - from the US East Coast to Asia Pacific. Program Solution customers can fly within, or between, each region within the VistaJet service area with no positioning costs.  Whether the trip is London to New York, Geneva to Riyadh or Bahrain to Beijing, Program customers only pay for the hours they fly, on the aircraft that meets their requirements.

Your marketing states ‘VistaJet - finally the alternative', what makes the company so different?

There are two key elements that differentiate VistaJet from our competitors. The first is our luxury brand, and the second is our business model. The global financial crisis has highlighted the significant capital commitment and asset risks associated with full or fractional ownership.

For the first time in more than 25 years, there is an alternative to the fractional market. Our business model delivers to the client the unique combination of a luxury brand, a customised solution, and pricing transparency.

VistaJet's flight solutions - Program and On Demand - meet the needs and requirements of our customers today and in the future. For the frequent traveller, 100 hours per year or more, VistaJet offers Program where customers can customise their travel solution, have access to our entire fleet of aircraft, and receive guaranteed availability all for a simple occupied hourly rate.  For those customers who travel only occasionally, we offer On Demand; one call to our sales representatives and they can put together that special trip. Our customer is one who is value-conscious.

While price is important, they want the same experience in the air, as they do in their homes, their vacation destinations, and their offices.

We offer complete price transparency to our customers with no hidden costs. While other providers' Programs break out positioning fees, monthly fees, ownership fees, hourly fees, the VistaJet business model is built on simplicity and transparency. Our customers asked for a simple, inclusive occupied hour rate, and VistaJet delivers on that, together with a statement of the hours used at the end of each month. How has the company fared in the economic downturn?

We have enjoyed a very successful 2009, with July and August setting successive new records for number of flights and customers carried in a single month.

Despite the global recession and the private business aviation market contracting, VistaJet's revenues in H1 2009 were up 22 percent. More than 11,000 passengers have flown with VistaJet in 2009 so far.

The company will also be adding to its fleet of aircraft with several more deliveries planned for this year.

While every company has seen some effect, and our business plan called for more growth than experienced, we are certainly very optimistic for the future and will be continuing to develop and grow the business.

Geographically what is the scope of your services? What is the range of your aircraft?

We have the largest Program service area in business aviation encompassing Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

We can also provide services to our Program customers when flying within the US through our partnership with FlexJet.  All our jets are from Bombardier and are less than three years old.

We have tactical aircraft like the Learjet 40XR and the Learjet 60XR which can fly from three to five hours - perfect for regional missions with four to six passengers - to our Challenger 604/5, which is the best inter-regional aircraft flying up to eight hours with six to nine passengers.

We also have our Challenger 850s and Global Express XRS, which can fly from between six and 11 hours seating up to 14 passengers, and sleeping (fully reclined) up to six passengers.

Where are your key markets?

We are seeing a lot of demand in key core markets such as Europe and in particular Russia where we are flying several flights a day. The Middle East has grown very quickly and we are seeing a good uptake of customers in the Asian markets. Africa is a continent which is also showing increased customer demand and we would expect that to continue and grow.

How many flights are you making in the Middle East?

We have doubled the number of flights we are doing in the Gulf region compared to a year ago and we are enjoying great success as well as business growth in the region.

I am very excited to brief customers on VistaJet's unique offering at the Dubai Airshow in November as the Middle East is a very important area for us. Customers are coming to us because we offer a proposition that no one else can match.

Where do you expect your company to be in five years?

I am committed to VistaJet's continued growth and to driving innovation in the aviation industry. VistaJet's plan is to grow deeper in the Europe market (which includes the Commonwealth of Independent States), and to grow broader through the Middle East and Asia - as well as Africa.  A new management team has been put in place this year and we have on board a team with considerable aviation industry experience which can take us to greater success and growth.

My aim is to grow this business smartly and consistently. VistaJet will continue to be the premier, luxury partner in business aviation.

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