Vista Global (parent of VistaJet and XOJET) founder and chairman Thomas Flohr offers his predictions for business aviation

Last year, VistaJet made news when it launched a Dubai-based holding company Vista Global and then weeks later announced the acquisition of XOJET, a large U.S.-based fleet operator and charter broker. At the same time, VistaJet has been solidifying its position at the top end of the global private jet card and charter market adding to its ferry free flying zones (now 95% of the globe) and top-end services for children, catering and oenophiles.

Q & A with Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Vista Global

Recently Private Jet Card Comparisons caught up with Vista Group chairman and founder Thomas Flohr, who last year made his first appearance on the Forbes’ billionaire’s list. He discussed with us his outlook for private jet travel this year, hot trends and potential hiccups.

VistaJet focuses offers global jet card and private jet charter solutions

As a global player, how do you see the various worldwide markets?
 

US buyers will continue to dominate. There are still lots of American buyers who are planning to buy an aircraft in 2019. US equity markets may be skittish, but the firm link between share prices and business jet deliveries stopped working in 2009. We would argue that business confidence is more important. Although there are some bright spots, demand in the rest of the world is patchier: it looks set to be a tough year in China (as Apple’s recent announcement shows) and the Middle East. Demand in Europe may be flat – although UK operators are confident that they can cope with Brexit. Although, VistaJet continues to see market share and flight movement growth continue across Europe and the Middle East.

How about flight activity?

Utilization will be flattish. WINGX data shows 2018 was a record year for business aircraft flights, although growth slowed in the last six months. The next 12 months are probably likely to be pretty flat – perhaps up by a few percent if we are lucky. This said, XOJET has one of the highest (aircraft) utilization rates at 1,160 hours (per jet per year). 

Is your membership growing?

As airlines optimize routes and commercial travel becomes more difficult and stressful, a higher number of individuals are turning to business aviation for added comfort, privacy, and convenience. 2018 saw a significant growth in the private aviation market, but private aviation fliers and corporations are looking away from aircraft ownership as their means of travel instead looking to charter, membership, jet cards. In 2018 VistaJet increased 31% in new members globally year on year and this trend is expected to continue this year.

What about the types of trips you are seeing?

Demand for longer flights and comfort continue to increase. In 2019 flights are only going to continue getting longer. Gulfstream made advances in 2018 that will help private aviation reach extreme distances.  And Bombardier will launch its Global 7500. VistaJet’s U.S. based Global aircraft flew more than the Challenger fleet during 2018.

Do you see more consolidation in business aviation?

Business aviation is a very fragmented industry. With the launch of Vista Global in 2018, VistaJet and its sister companies – XOJET, Vista Lease and TechX – are in a leadership position to better serve customers and consolidate the industry.

Any other trends you are seeing related to private jet travel?

Bleisure – the combination of business and leisure – is growing significantly. Perhaps one of the biggest travel trends in recent years has been the blurring between business and leisure travel. Squeezed for time, many corporate travelers view the business trip as a working vacation, and a chance for family time on the road. In 2018, VistaJet launched Adventures in the Sky and The VistaJet Wine Programto Members to incorporate their passions and maximize their time in the air. More to come in 2019.

Wellness tourism is expected to grow more rapidly in the next few years with the Global Wellness Institute projecting it to grow twice as fast as general tourism and reach $919 billion in 2022 from the $639 billion in 2017. This year VistaJet will be launching more innovations that will address this growing travel lifestyle.

About the Author Doug Gollan

I am Founder and Editor of Private Jet Card Comparisons, the only independent buyer's guide to jet card membership programs, and DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly luxury travel e-newsletter for private jet owners. I am also a contributor to Forbes.com