Anyone wanting a lesson in surviving the business aviation collapse ought to ask VistaJet's (stand 230) Thomas Flohr. The founder and chairman of the largest wholly owned fleet of business jets outside the USA saw passenger numbers grow 25% last year to 16,500, with the first four months pointing to a similar increase forecast for 2010.
The all-Bombardier charter operator is taking on five aircraft this year to bring its fleet to 28, with 20 more on order for delivery to 2014, including the all-new Learjet 85.
The Swiss company, which operates most Bombardier types from the Learjet 40XR to the Global Express, says delivering a consistent brand experience has been key to its success.
"We provide the best value for money in terms of quality of cabin and a door-to-door pampered service for our clients. We are the luxury leader," says Flohr, who started the business in 2004. "It is a business model that is scalable as we provide the same customer experience no matter what airplane they opt for."
He says privately owned VistaJet has attracted much of its custom from shareholders in fractional programmes who have veered away from ownership as asset prices have plunged in the recession. "This is the first time in this industry there is an alternative to fractionals," he says.
The company was among the first to recognise the growing potential of Asian, African and Middle Eastern markets, setting up sales offices and bases in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, says Flohr. "We have three aircraft based in Asia at any one time and we are looking to further expand there. It is definitely a market for larger aircraft."
He rules out a previous suggestion that VistaJet might expand up to Airbus or Boeing business jets. "We are sticking with Bombardier for now," he says.
The company's performance last year was "exceptional in view of the challenging economic environment we faced," he adds. "I am especially pleased that VistaJet can claim to be one of the very few aviation companies anywhere in the world that was profitable in 2009."