French business aircraft operator WiJet is looking to raise 15 million ($17.4 million) to fund its ambitious expansion programme.

The money will help the Le Bourget, Paris-headquartered company to quadruple of its fleet of entry-level Cessna Citation Mustangs from five to 20 aircraft over the next two years. It will also help finance the expansion of its European bases and allow WiJet to make its first foray in to the Asian market.

“Since we launched operations in 2009 we have been growing year-on-year by around 40% [passengers and revenue],” says WiJet founder Corentin Denoeud.

“We need to add more aircraft to cater for this growing demand,” he continues. “At the moment we are outsourcing around 20% of our bookings to other operators because we don’t have enough aircraft.”

To reduce its current reliance on third-party operators, WiJet plans to add a sixth Mustang to its fleet next month and a seventh in March. “All of our aircraft are pre-owned, low-time models,” Denoeud says. “They are in great condition.”

Despite the fragility of the light jet market in Europe, demand for WiJet's service has been strong from the start. “We launched at the height of the financial crisis, attracting customers who were moving down from larger cabin business jets such as the CJ1 and CJ2," says Denoeud. "We are now seeing an increase in customers coming from airline business class. The Mustang is very affordable. We charter the aircraft for a fixed price of €2,400 [$2,777] per hour – €600 each for four passengers.”

Around 80% of WiJet's customers are travelling for business purposes and are looking for the "convenience and flexibility that only a business aircraft can provide – such as access to 1,200 airports around the continent”, Denoeud says.

WiJet has seven bases across Europe including Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Luxembourg and Geneva, and is planning to add Zurich, London "and another UK city" to the line-up in the coming months.

Expansion into Asia next year is also part of the company's short-term strategy. WiJet initially plans to enter the market with its partner Air France by providing onward travel for first-class passengers around the region. It already provides this service for the French flag carrier's long-haul premium passengers flying to and from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

“We officially launched the service in July 2014 and it has proved very popular with Air France customers," says Denoeud. "It has also helped us to expand our customers base across Europe. We hope to do the same in Asia. By partnering with Air France, we can get a foot in the door. All the marketing and PR work has already been done.”

“Given the size of the region we are going to need a minimum of ten aircraft to make the service profitable,” says Denoeud.

Source: Flight International