Vista Global’s deal yesterday with Red Wing that brings it 15 light jets to XOJET is the latest and doesn’t look to be the last

In just over 3 years, we’ve tracked over 50 deals, fundraises, launches, and bankruptcies

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.

While terms are often not announced, clearly, there have been billions of dollars in bets. Not all have worked out, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

Vista Global’s XOJET Aviation acquisition of15 Citation V Ultra’s from Red Wing Aviation is just the latest. It’s actually not clear the nature of the structure is not being disclosed. Either way, Vista said it plans to build its U.S. light jet count to 50, so that means more action ahead.

Red Wing was the 19th largest Part 135 in 2019, according to Argus. XOJET ranked third. A sell-sheet shows the light jet operator with $25.8 million in revenue last year and EBITDA of $3.2, or a profit margin of 12.4%.

If historical performance is an indicator of future activity, expect more deals. Seven of the nine largest Part 135 charter operators have been involved in mergers and acquisitions activity in the past 18 months.

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
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
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; 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
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
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
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)

  • Orders and options for 325 midsize and super-midsize aircraft from Textron Cessna from the unit of Berkshire Hathaway, which includes Executive Jet Management, the second-largest Part 135 operator

Wheels Up (2)

  • Multiple fundraises
  • Acquires TMC Jets, Delta Private Jets, Gama Aviation Signature
  • Acquires tech platform of Avianis
  • Launches of Aircraft Sales group

Directional Aviation – OneSky Flight (3)

  • Principal Kenn Ricci fundraises separate SPAC targeting aviation acquisitions
  • Acquires Italian AOC Sirio and U.K.-broker PrivateFly
  • Launches premium charter broker FXAIR
  • Launches charter payment platform Tuvoli
  • $1 billion + orders for Gulfstream and Embraer private jets

Vista Global Holding (4)

  • Multiple fundraises from Rhone Capital and refinances bonds
  • Acquires XOJET Aviation and JetSmarter
  • Launches XO by combining retail brokerages of JetSmarter and XOJET
  • Undetermined transaction with Red Wing Aviation

Jet Linx Aviation (5)

  • Acquires aircraft management and charter businesses from Elliott Aviation and Meridian
  • Opens bases in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York (Teterboro)

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), Mountain Aviation (10th), 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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