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Vista's view: We are your flexible friend

Posted 7 March 2018 · Add Comment

Middle East customers are shifting away from fractional and full aircraft ownership towards charter, according to leading business aviation company VistaJet. Dave Calderwood reports.

A 50% increase in the number of Middle East customers has driven a doubling of the number of flying hours bought over the year – and VistaJet predicts more growth to come.
“Our growth here over the past 12 months has been pretty good,” said chief commercial officer Ian Cooper. “We’ve grown the customer base 50% and it’s been more diverse – we’re booking in more places like Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt, and the UAE has become a very big part of what we’re doing.
“We’re not new entrants into the Middle East but there are so many pockets within the region where we can grow. So the region is a very exciting place for us. We’ve been here for a while so our brand is getting better known and, as most of our customers come from recommendations from our current customer base, we’re seeing this multiplier effect.”
One of those pockets is Saudi Arabia, where VistaJet is to start direct operations this year. The kingdom already accounts for 39% – the largest share – of the company’s Middle East customers, followed by the UAE with 30%, and Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt with 7% respectively. Saudi Arabia has even more potential for growth, particularly since VistaJet decided to abolish positioning fees around the globe – so far it’s the only global operator to make such a move.
“We are leading the industry and relentlessly strive to deliver an unparalleled global service to our customers,” said Cooper. “With our extension to operate in and out of Saudi Arabia, this will further enable business leaders to travel seamlessly throughout the Middle East and to the rest of the world.”
Globally, the company connects with more than 1,600 airports, including 68 in the Middle East. Dubai is the top destination, connecting with Moscow, London, Nice and Mumbai, the highest traffic drivers. Global companies launching business subsidiaries in the Middle East is one reason for the growth in the region, with 70% of private aviation flights for business purposes.
Even though the flights may be for business, high levels of service are still required, says Cooper. “VistaJet tailors each flight to customers’ needs. Aircraft need to able to serve as an office in the sky for customers who want to prepare for meetings and maximise productivity. Additionally, a cabin hostess trained by the British Butler Institute on every flight ensures customers receive an exceptional service, from in-flight entertainment to exclusive menus curated by the world’s most renowned chefs.”
Last year, a digital membership package – VistaJet Direct – was launched. It gives customers priority access to available one-way and empty leg flights via the company’s app and website.
Further developments are planned and, with a recent $150 million investment from Rhône Capital, valuing the Malta-based company in excess of $2.5 billion, VistaJet has a large war chest ready for expansion.
It would appear to be a well-placed investment. At the end of November, VistaJet announced record results in its third quarter update, driven by continued demand for the company’s flagship program membership, with a 38% increase in revenue. The program segment achieved a record 32% increase of new hours flown compared to Q3 2016.
VistaJet’s distinctive fleet of silver and red business jets has flown corporations, governments and private clients to 187 countries worldwide since being founded in 2004 by Thomas Flohr, who said at the results conference: “Today’s record results are yet another milestone in VistaJet’s history and prove the global demand for our unique model and ability to shake up the business aviation industry. It is clear that in today’s on-demand economy, individuals want the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the VistaJet program.”

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