VistaJet founder Thomas Flohr is branching into business aircraft leasing and flight-booking technology as part of an expansion of the charter operator backed by a $200 million investment by private equity firm Rhône Group.
Flohr is setting up an entity with its headquarters in Dubai, called Vista Global Holding, that will include the original Malta-based charter business, as well as a new leasing arm, Vista Lease, and TechX, a technology unit that will market an app-based booking platform to third-party operators designed to fill empty legs on positioning flights.
The Swiss entrepreneur, who founded his company in 2004 and now operates a fleet of 70, red- and silver-liveried Bombardier jets on Maltese and US licences, says creating the new group "has been my vision since I started VistaJet". He says his aim is to "consolidate" the "fragmented but expanding business aviation market".
Vista Lease will start operations in 2019 and will hold options for several Global 7500s – the Canadian airframer's new ultra-long-range flagship – as well as acting as "principal buyer in the pre-owned segment", leasing equipment to "customers who seek a dedicated aircraft solution".
The company says it will "disrupt an unnecessary and dated process which involves customers being forced through a broker-to-broker chain", and that it will "look after an addressable market" of over 7,000 super-midsize and ultra-long-range types.
The technology division will employ 50 specialists and offer an empty-leg booking platform that Flohr announced last year, having developed it for its own operation.
Rhône Group, which a year ago injected $200 million in return for a 7.5% stake in VistaJet, will supply the same amount again. Vista Global Holding says the money will strengthen its balance sheet as it "looks to take advantage of further acquisition opportunities". It is unclear how much additional equity – if any – Rhône Group has taken in the new business.
In January, VistaJet claimed to have had its best year to date, flying a record 50,000 passengers. Its fleet comprises Global 5000/6000 aircraft as well as Challenger 850s, 605s and 350s.
The operator launched its US-based, N-registered fleet in 2014.