Earlier this year Wijet said it was ordering 16 new HondaJet aircraft to expand its charter business. Now, it’s future is unclear.
Updated (June 29 – 6:45pm):
Patrick Hersent, the Group CEO of Wijet, has exclusively confirmed to Private Jet Card Comparisons that the UK side of the business will enter receivership on Monday. He said he resigned two weeks ago and officially leaves the business tomorrow, Saturday and staff were notified of the company plans today. He said the European side of the business will continue, however, he is not sure of the final plan. The UK side, which represented the former Blink, held the group’s Air Operator’s Certificate, issued by the UK authorities so even if the French side tries to continue it would have to negotiate both airplane leases and find an operator with an AOC, he says. Hersent said he is not aware of what’s owed to consumers or vendors. He said the decision was made by the Supervisory Board however, he declined to comment further.
Updated (June 30 – 7:11am) – We received the following email from Alexandre Azoulay, a co-founder of Wijet – including a press release dated for tomorrow July 1, 2018:
The Wijet Group (Luxembourg) is keeping its continental Europe operations going as usual. The UK subsidiary – one of many in the group – is being shut down progressively because of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit. Wijet will roll out its new fleet in the next weeks and reposition its entire operations in the EU in view of Brexit.
Blackbushe, July 1st 2018 – Wijet Holding Luxembourg is announcing it is giving up its British Airline Operator Certificate, previously obtained through the Octobre 2016 acquisition of Blink UK limited . The operations of the group’s British subsidiaries are halted, as ground and air operations will be progressively transferred to Continental Europe- based partner operators.
This decision comes fifteen months after the acquisition of Blink UK, in which the Ogden family was a major shareholder. The company was found to never have been profitable, with an aging fleet of aircraft and a cost structure not fit to on demand air charter. Integration issues also triggered inefficiencies that could not be solved for. The doubts around the deadline of March 2019 from the EASA accelerated the decision to look for a solution to contionue operating flights within the European Union. Intra UK flights accounted for less that 10% of the group’s sales.
The Blink brand will disappear, and the Group will refocus its resources to the only Wijet brand, a landmark in the European business aviation landscape since 2010. Wijet was first to introduce a fixed price per flight hour in business aviation. It is also the exclusive partner of Air France for last mile connections to and from the Charles de Gaule hub.
Most recently, The Wijet group struck a deal with Honda Aircraft Corporation to introduce a new generation of aircrafts, the H420, which better matches the requirements of clients for on demand charter.
Updated (June 30 – 12:38 pm)
After a telephone conversation this morning, Wijet has provided us an additional statement from Jean Francois Hochenauer who is the Chief Operating Officer of Wijet:
“The UK market accounts for only 10% of our business, and with Brexit moving forward, it will be less significant. In terms of shutting our U.K. operations, it is like General Motors, they may shut one plant, but they are still continuing in business. Or it’s like a single Marriott hotel closing down, that doesn’t mean Marriott doesn’t exist anymore!
“We could have easily gotten another AOC in the EU, but we are moving from a full stack airline, with everything from operating aircraft and maintenance, to a model like Wheels Up, where they have their fleet of aircraft, but outsource all the operations to a partner, in their case GAMA Aviation. This is a much scalable and efficient operation. We plan on taking delivery of the HondaJet aircraft we have ordered. They will be flown by partner operators in the EU, which we will be announcing in the coming weeks. The aircraft will have the Wijet brand and will be operated by the name of the operator on the side, so they will be Wijet branded.”
Original article starts below:
Three separate sources have told Private Jet Card Comparisons that European on-demand private jet charter and jet card membership operator Wijet has informed its staff, including pilots, it is planning to wind down operations over the weekend, and it is understood the company may be placed into receivership as early as Monday. (Wijet has said that the wind-down will be for its UK operations per the above). A Wijet employee reached via telephone in Paris said the company is still operating flights and requested questions be directed via email, which have yet to be answered. Private Jet Card Comparisons has not been able to view any of the internal to staff emails.
Rumors had apparently been swirling around Wijet since earlier this year. On the talkboard PPRuNE, known as Professional Pilots Rumor Network, one poster wrote in February, “Met up with a long time buddy who still flies for WiJet…Anyway, he says that he can’t quite work out how they will pay for all these new Jets when they are having trouble paying salaries, fuel bills, airways bills etc. He was stopped at Farnborough (airport) recently by a TAG vehicle being driven in front of his aircraft whilst taxiing. They had put their fuel on account, which had been put on stop…That doesn’t surprise him either because they haven’t paid for fuel/landings etc. at Blackbushe (airport) for months…watch this space.” On June 6th, another poster wrote, “Cessna have issued the order for the 4 original “Blink” liveried mustangs to be returned to the UK today and de-registered. Apparently. Wijet haven’t been paying the finance programs on them.” This morning, a third poster wrote, “Bankruptcy…This is the end…last flights will be tomorrow, AOC will be suspended, salaries not paid.”
Less than two years ago France-based Wijet acquired U.K.-based Blink with the goal of creating “the world’s largest air taxi company.” At the time it said the merger had an enterprise value of €45 million and would combine the respective fleets of the two operators. Earlier this year Wijet placed an order with Honda Aircraft for 16 HondaJet HA-420s as part of a fleet upgrade and expansion program. (Editor’s Note – July 2, 2018 – A spokesperson for the manufacturer said, “Honda Aircraft Company is working closely with Wijet to complete their entire order. Given the final transaction is being executed, we cannot provide further details.”)
Wijet said new aircraft deliveries were scheduled to begin in March and continue for 18 months. Wijet chief executive Patrick Hersent had said, “The HondaJets will replace some of our 15 Cessna Citation Mustangs, which have an average age of around seven years.” The company is not part of the Private Jet Card Comparisons database of jet card programs as it did not complete the 65-point questionnaire tracking policies and fees, as well as ownership and consumer protection details that are required of all companies being tracked and compared.
Jet Card Pricing
Wijet earlier this year had said sample trip prices for jet card members were Paris-Geneva day return from €5,040; Paris-Ibiza day return from €10,640, and Paris-Marrakech day return from €14,350.
When it announced the HondaJet order, it said, “The HondaJet…offers a range enabling Wijet to connect Paris, one of its 12 bases, to destinations inaccessible until now with planes in this class. These destinations include major cities in North Africa as well as Athens.” On its website, Wijet lists a U.K.-issued Air Operator Certificate (GB2349) for Blink Air with an address at Blackbushe Airport in Surrey. One source says the plan is to put UK side of the business into administration but try to move forward with the original Wijet business, perhaps having reduced debt.
According to the Air France website, it still offers Wijet charters as a connecting option in Paris for customers flying on its La Premier first class service, and Wijet still features Air France on its site. Such relationships are not uncommon. Lufthansa has a similar partnership with NetJets Europe.
One aviation executive said it is unlikely there is any protection for consumers who had purchased jet cards or paid in advance for their flights on Wijet unless they used a credit card. In the U.S., many jet card companies provide an escrow account option to help ensure their money is protected in case of an insolvency. Private Jet Card Comparisons provides details on consumer protection for the over 250 programs we compare for paid subscribers.
Should the reports of Wijet’s demise be accurate, it will have followed the shutdown of Atlanta-based charter operator ImagineAir in May, and Singapore and Los Angeles-based ZettaJet last September, the latter eventually resulting in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing with over $50 million in unpaid claims. Earlier this month news broke of financial problems for Surf Air, which is a facing a $3.1 million lawsuit from a former operator for allegedly unpaid bills and a confirmed tax lien of nearly $2.4 million. In 2014, Avantair, which sold fractional jet cards and aircraft shares, declared bankruptcy. In 2016, Beacon, which was founded by a co-founder of Surf Air, ceased operations after less than one year, while BlackJet, which had celebrity backing from Ashton Kutcher also went belly up. According to ARGUS TRAQpak 2017 was the strongest years for private aviation flights in the U.S. since the Great Recession and with new tax benefits, multiple reports say sales of aircraft, both new and used, are improving.
One industry observer told us, “When you see these things, it hasn’t been the health of the industry, it’s been a bad business plan or poor management. The well-run companies with established and proven business models are doing quite well.” Of course from the consumer perspective, the key is to choose those companies.