Let’s make a deal. The M&A market for private jet operators is hot. Over 50 deals, fundraises, launches, and bankruptcies detailed

(Updated June 8, 2021) The COVID-19 crisis may be bringing the already simmering mergers and acquisitions market for private jet operators and brokers back to a boil.

Two new factors are driving increased interest. Research from McKinsey shows less than 10% of households who can afford private aviation were using it before the pandemic. In contrast, a study by the European VLJ operator shows there are 30 times fewer contact points when flying privately compared to the airlines.

In the past 3.5 years, we’ve tracked over 50 mergers, acquisitions, fundraising announcements, launches, major fleet orders, and bankruptcies involving notable private jet operators and brokers detailed below, including company overviews below the table.

Private Aviation Deal Book

Scorecard of Leading Private Jet Charter and Fractional Fleet Operators, and Charter Brokers – Mergers, Acquisitions, Fundraises, Launches, Orders, and Bankruptcies

WhoWhen What
Wheels UpJuly
2021
Completes merger with SPAC Aspirational Lifestyle and begins trading as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange under UP symbol
Jet EdgeJune
2021
#9 for-hire private jet operator Jet Edge secures a $150 million line of credit from KKR and launches guaranteed buy-back management program AdvantagEdge nationally
Directional
Aviation
June
2021
Directional’s OneSky Flight units orders 200 eVTOLs from Embraer-backed Eve and merges its two helicopter operators under the Halo brand.
JettlyMay
2021
Broker Jettly acquires Online Jets Charters
Directional
Aviation
May
2021
Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight unit acquires U.K.-helicopter operator Halo Aviation
Jets.comApril
2021
Ownership of broker Jets.com acquires Part 135 operator Pittsburgh Jet Center
Jet LinxApril
2021
Jet Linx will operate an undisclosed number of EVAs from Beta as part of an agreement with Blade, which will put the #5 for-hire private jet operator into the VTOL segment
Wheels UpApril
2021
Wheels Up partners with Textron Bell to launch a helicopter and VTOL unit focused on urban mobility, including connections to Delta Air Lines
FlapperMarch
2021
Latin American on-demand private jet charter platform Flapper raises a $2 million Series A investment
Vista Global March
2021
Vista Global buys on-demand charter broker Apollo Jets and an undisclosed interest in #14 charter operator and management company Talon Air
NetJetsMarch
2021
NetJets signs options for 20 Aerion AS2 supersonic private jets and to become the exclusive business aviation provider of Aerion Connect
GrandView
Aviation
Feb.
2021
GrandView Aviation launches FlyLindy with plans for scheduled by-the-seat helicopter flights between Washington D.C., New York City, and College Park, Maryland. It also adds new bases in Denver and Boston while doubling its Phenom 300 fleet
Directional
Aviation
Feb.
2021
Tuvoli of Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight unit acquires B2B platform Flyeasy.co
NetJetsFeb. 2021NetJets makes an undisclosed investment in sustainable aviation fuel producer WasteFuel
Directional AviationFeb. 2021Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight unit acquires helicopter fractional share and jet card operator AAG Associated Aircraft Group
Wheels Up Feb. 2021Wheels Up announces a SPAC IPO valued at $2.1 via a merger with LVMH-backed Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp.
Directional AviationJan. 2021Directional Aviation launches 4AIR, an emissions reduction solution provider focused solely on private aviation
Wheels UpJan. 2021Wheels Up acquires 59 more aircraft with #9 largest charter operator Mountain Aviation for $10 million in cash, 8,620,690 common interests, and up to $15 million in additional incentives
Blade Urban
Mobility
Dec.
2020
Blade will become publicly listed on NASDAQ through a business combination with Experience Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: EXPC), a public entity sponsored by an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2021.
Zanite AcquisitionNov.
2020
Zanite Acquisition Corp. helmed by Directional principal Kenn Ricci launches IPO priced at $200 million
Vista Global Nov.
2020
XOJET Aviation acquires 15 Citation Ultras and a “majority controlling” stake of #19 largest charter operator Red Wing Aviation
JetSuiteSept.
2020
Exits Chapter 11
Zanite AcquistionOct.
2020
Directional Aviation (Flexjet, Sentient Jet, PrivateFly, FXAIR) Principal Kenn Ricci launches Zanite Acquisition SPAC as co-CEO to acquire aviation companies with $200 million+ funding
Genesis ParkSept.
2020
Houston-based SPAC lists private aviation operators
as a potential target
Surf AirAug.
2020
Plans $200 million SPAC via Global Emerging Markets Group
Wheels UpAug.
2020
Launches whole aircraft sales unit
DirectionalJuly
2020
Launches broker FXAIR with plans to access a fleet of 30+
Challenger 300s and Globals exiting Flexjet’s fractional fleet
Jet LinxJuly
2020
Buys Meridian management and charter business
to expand at Teterboro, the busiest U.S. private jet airport
Wing AviationJune
2020
#25 largest charter operator Wing Aviation merges aircraft
management and charter business with Western Airways
DirectionalMay
2020
Affirms 2020 launch for Flexjet’s European fractional program is
delayed until 2021
Elevate HoldingsJune
2020
Private Jet Services subsidiary signs as exclusive charter sales
agent for iAero’s 35 VIP Boeing 737-400s
JetSuiteApril
2020
Files for Chapter 11 leaving SuiteKey jet cardholders
out $50 million
Wheels UpMarch
2020
Buys #1 ranked charter operator Gama Aviation Signature for $41.3 million in cash, 1,724,138 common interests and promissory notes with an initial principal of $28.3 million
FlyExclusiveMarch
2020
#8 ranked charter operator buys Gulfstream operator Sky Night
VictorMarch
2020
Management buys broker after parent company goes
into receivership
WijetFeb.
2020
European VLJ operator closes and liquidates
Surf AirFeb.
2020
Buys charter platform BlackBird Air and renames itself Surf Air Mobility
AlyssumFeb.
2020
Charter broker Victor parent enters administration
Jet EdgeJan.
2020
#7 largest charter operator buys charter operator JetSelect
Wheels UpDec.
2019
Buys #4 operator Delta Private Jets for 112,949,205 Class E preferred interests; Delta Air Lines values
its 27% stake in Wheels Up at $240 million
Air PartnerDec.
2019
Buys Redline Assured Security
XJC AviationDec.
2019
U.K. operator placed into administration
Elevate HoldingsNov.
2019
Private Jet Services Group subsidiary buys The Flight Exchange
Qatar AirwaysOct.
2019
Qatar Executive unit places $1 billion + order for
Gulfstream G700s
DirectionalOct.
2019
Flexjet unit places $1 billion + order for Gulfstream G700s
DirectionalOct.
2019
Flexjet unit places $1.4 billion order for
Embraer Praetor 500s, 600s, and Phenom 300s
DirectionalOct.
2019
Launches charter payment platform Tuvoli
Wheels UpSept.
2019
Buys tech platform Avianis for $14.4 million in cash and 2,011,495 common interests
Wheels UpAug.
2019
Raises $128 million in Series D from Franklin Templeton, T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity Management at $1.1 billion valuation
Alliance AviationJuly
2019
Former Dumont executives launch broker and operator Alliance Aviation
Wing SpiritJuly
2019
Hawaiian start-up charter operator orders 15 HondaJet very light jets
Wheels UpJune
2019
Buys #9 operator TMC Jets for $29.8 million in cash
Vista GlobalJune
2019
Merges XOJET and JetSmarter brokerages to form XO
Elevate HoldingsJune
2019
Private Jet Services Group creates Elevate Holdings and launches
charter operator Elevate Jet
Vista GlobalMay
2019
Refinances $550 million of senior unsecured bonds
Jet EdgeMay
2019
Jet Edge launches used aircraft broker Jet Edge Partners following its $60 million raise in January 2019.
BlackBird AirMay
2019
Raises $10 million from New Enterprise Associates
JetCard PlusMay
2019
Jet card broker closes, leaving Treasury Secretary
Steve Mnuchin with a 200k loss
Jet LinxMay
2019
Buys Elliot Aviation’s management and charter business
Vista GlobalApril
2019
Buys tech-led seat-sharing broker JetSmarter
Jet EdgeJan.
2019
Raises $60 million from Solace Capital Partners
PrivatAirDec.
2018
European operator enters receivership
Surf Air Dec.
2018
European subsidiary enters liquidation
NetJetsOct.
2018
Announces order with options for 325 private jets from
Textron’s Cessna division
DirectionalSept.
2018
Buys fast-growing U.K.-broker PrivateFly
Vista GlobalSept.
2018
Buys #3 operator XOJET Aviation fleet and commercial
operations; becomes minority owner in Part 135 operator
VistaJetSept.
2018
Raises $200 million from Rhone Capital, forms Dubai-based
Vista Global Holding
Ultimate JetChartersAug.
2018
Announces acquisition by OneJet is off
Jet ItAug.
2018
New entrant launches HondaJet fractional ownership program
WijetJune
2018
Places U.K. subsidiary Blink into receivership
ImagineAirMay
2018
Atlanta-based Cirrus SR22 air taxi shuts down without warning
OneJetMay
2018
Announces it will acquire Ultimate JetCharters for a combined
fleet of 25 aircraft
DirectionalApril
2018
Buys Italian charter operator and management company Sirio
JetSuite/JSXApril
2018
Announces undisclosed investment from Qatar Airways and
JetBlue
DumontMar.
2018
Acquires 27 Dassault Falcon 2000s from NetJets to be delivered
through 2019
WijetFeb.
2018
Orders 16 HondaJet very light jets to replace Cessna Mustang fleet
VictorJan.
2018
Raises $18 million from BP Ventures and BBA Aviation;
forms Alyssum Group as a holding company
PrivateFlyNov.
2017
U.K.-brokers buys U.S. broker Bird Dog Jets
Wheels UpOct.
2017
Wheels Up raises $117.5 million from AccorFidelity, T. Rowe Price,
NEA and others
Stellar LabsOct.
2017
Raises $26.3 million in Series A equity financing to develop
a real-time charter booking platform
Apollo JetsFall
2017
Broker with an estimated $100 million + revenues; undisclosed
with Talon Jets, 16th largest Part 135 operator
VictorSept.
2017
Raises $10 million from BP Ventures
Zetta JetSept.
2017
Bombardier Global Express operator files for Chapter 11,
then 7 amid fraud charges
StarJets InternationalSept.
2017
Blue Star Jets co-founder Ricky Sitomer acquires
Advanced Defense Technology in a reverse merger
VistaJetAug.
2017
Raises $150 million from Rhone Captial
JetSmarterAug.
2017
Raises undisclosed funding from Clearlake Capital Group, L.P., and
Leucadia National Corporation
Wheels UpJuly
2017
Secures $90 million in debt financing from KKR
StratajetJune
2017
After raising $8 million to develop realtime charter bookings,
Stratajet shutters
Surf AirJune
2017
Buys Texas-based shared flight operator RISE
Source: Private Jet Card Comparisons or links with the listing. Who refers to the parent entity. The actual acquirer may be a related company. Some transactions include minority ownership due to rules governing foreign ownership. Size rankings related to Argus 2019 data ranking Part 135 operators. by flight hours unless noted.

Summary by 5 Largest Private Aviation Groups

Based on Private Jet Card Comparisonsranking of top for-hire private aviation companies (2019 Part 135 and Part 91K flight hours data from Argus).

NetJets (1) – subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway

Headquarters – Columbus, Ohio; Chairman & CEO – Adam Johnson

  • Invested in SAF producer WasteFuel (Feb. 2021)
  • Orders and options for 325 midsize and super-midsize aircraft from Textron (Oct. 2018)

Directional Aviation – OneSky Flight LLC (2)

Headquarters – Cleveland, Ohio; Principal – Kenn Ricci

  • Directional’s OneSky Flight units orders 200 eVTOLs from Embraer-backed Eve and merges its two helicopter operators under the Halo brand (June 2021)
  • Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight unit acquires U.K.-helicopter operator Halo Aviation (May 2021)
  • Acquires B2B tech platform FlyEasy.co (Feb. 2021)
  • Acquires helicopter operator Associated Aircraft Group (Feb. 2021)
  • Launches emissions solutions provider 4AIR (Jan. 2021)
  • Principal Kenn Ricci fundraises separate SPAC Zanite acquisition targeting aviation acquisitions (Oct. 2020 and Nov. 2020)
  • Launches premium charter broker FXAIR (July 2020)
  • Flexjet places billion-dollar order for Gulfstream G700s (Oct. 2019)
  • Flexjet places $1.4 billion order for Embraer Praetor 600s, 500s, and Phenom 300s (Oct. 2019)
  • Launches B2B charter payment platform Tuvoli (Oct. 2019)
  • Acquires U.K.-based charter broker PrivateFly (Sept. 2018)
  • Acquires Italian AOC Sirio (April 2018)

Wheels Up Partners LLC (3)

Headquarters, New York, New York; Founder and CEO – Kenny Dichter

  • Wheels Up partners with Textron Bell to launch a helicopter and VTOL unit focused on urban mobility, including connections to Delta Air Lines
  • Announces a SPAC IPO valued at $2.1 via a merger with LVMH-backed Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp.
  • Acquires 59 more aircraft with #9 largest charter operator Mountain Aviation (Jan. 2021)
  • Launches whole aircraft sales unit (Aug. 2020)
  • Buys #1 ranked charter operator Gama Aviation Signature (March 2020)
  • Buys #4 operator Delta Private Jets; Delta Air Lines values its 27% stake in Wheels Up at $240 million (Dec. 2019)
  • Buys tech platform Avianis (Sept. 2019)
  • Raises $128 million in Series D from Franklin Templeton, T. Rowe Price, and Fidelity Management at $1.1 billion valuation (Aug. 2019)
  • Buys #9 operator TMC Jets (June 2019)
  • Raises $117.5 million AccorFidelity, T. Rowe Price, NEA, and others (Oct. 2017)
  • Secures $90 million in debt financing from KKR (July 2017)

Vista Global Holding (4)

Headquarters – Dubai, UAE; Chairman and CEO – Thomas Flohr

  • Vista Global buys on-demand charter broker Apollo Jets and an undisclosed interest in #14 charter operator and management company Talon Air
  • XOJET Aviation acquires 15 Citation Ultras and a “majority controlling” stake of #19 largest charter operator Red Wing Aviation (Nov. 2019)
  • Merges XOJET and JetSmarter brokerages to form XO (June 2019)
  • Refinances $550 million of senior unsecured bonds (May 2019)
  • Buys tech-led seat-sharing broker JetSmarter (April 2019)
  • Buys #3 operator XOJET Aviation fleet and commercial operations; becomes minority owner in Part 135 operator (Sept. 2018)
  • Raises $200 million from Rhone Capital, forms Dubai-based Vista Global Holding (Sept. 2018)
  • Raises $150 million from Rhone Captial (Aug. 2017)

Jet Linx Aviation (5)

Headquarters – Omaha, Nebraska; CEO – Jamie Walker

  • Buys Meridian management and charter business to expand at Teterboro, the busiest U.S. private jet airport (July 2020)
  • Buys Elliot Aviation’s management and charter business (May 2019)
  • Opens bases in Austin, Boston, Chicago, and New York – Teterboro (2019) and Minneapolis (2020)

On the sidelines (so far)

U.K.-based charter broker Air Charter Service, which claims annual revenues of nearly $700 million, has been adding offices around-the-world. PlaneSense, a seller of fractional shares on the Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24, has been growing organically by adding its jet program. Solairus Aviation (ranked 7th), Airshare (11th), Clay Lacy Aviation (12th), Jet Aviation, a unit of General Dynamics (13th), Corporate Flight Management, known as Contour Aviation (14th), and Aero Air (15th) are other large players so far not involved in any transactions that have been reported during the past three years. 18th ranked Nicholas Air, which sells jet cards and fractional shares earlier this year, said it was adding two new Phenom 300s.

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