Argus TRAQPak’s list of the largest U.S. private jet charter operators highlights the active mergers and acquisitions market

Argus TRAQPak’s list of the 25 largest U.S. Part 135 private jet operators ranked by flight hours highlights the industry’s frenetic merger and acquisition activity. Ten of the private jet charter operators were involved in transactions. Part 135 includes on-demand and jet card flights

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- PRIVATE AVIATION DEAL BOOK - Catalog of Mergers, Acquisitions, Launches, IPOs, Capital Raises, and Bankruptcies by Business Aviation Operators

What’s more, four of the 10 largest operators (Gama Aviation Signature, Mountain Aviation, Delta Private Jets, and Travel Management Company) are now part of Wheels Up. For an updated M&A rundown, read our PRIVATE AVIATION DEAL BOOK.

Six new operators in the top 25

In another sign of flux, six operators dropped off, meaning six were added. New to the list was Advanced Air (ranked 17th), Superior Transportation Associates (20), Jet Select (22), Berry Aviation (23), Scott Aviation (24), and Pacific Coast Jet (25). Most notable of the dropoffs was JetSuite, which grounded its fleet in April, then filed for bankruptcy in April, before emerging in September with just three Embraer Phenom 100 very light jets. You can review the 2019 list of largest charter operators here.

The largest operator remains Gama Aviation Signature, the Wheels Up branded fleet’s longtime operator, which was acquired by Wheels Up last March. Vista Global’s XOJET Aviation traded places with NetJets’ Executive Jet Management moving into the second spot.

Largest Private Jet Charter Operators 2020

RANK
2020/(2019)
OPERATOR NAME – PARENT2020 FLIGHT
HOURS
1/(1)GAMA AVIATION SIGNATURE (Wheels Up)65,307
2/(3)XOJET AVIATION (Vista Global Holding)50,392
3/(2)EXECUTIVE JET MANAGEMENT (NetJets)37,348
4/(5)JET LINX AVIATION29,664
5 /(10)MOUNTAIN AVIATION (Wheels Up)27,661
6/(4)DELTA PRIVATE JETS (Wheels Up)26,510
7/(8)EXCLUSIVE JETS – FLY EXCLUSIVE24,579
8/(6)SOLAIRUS AVIATION20,968
9/(7)JET EDGE19,277
10/(9)TRAVEL MANAGEMENT COMPANY (Wheels Up)14,624
11/(11)CLAY LACY AVIATION10,761
12/(14)AERO AIR10,508
13/(13)CORPORATE FLIGHT MANAGEMENT – CONTOUR10,308
14/(15)TALON AIR9,850
15/(17)WORLDWIDE JET CHARTER9,702
16/(19)RED WING AVIATION (Vista Global Holding)9,199
17/(NR)ADVANCED AIR7,839
18/(12)JET AVIATION7,493
19/(21)JET ACCESS AVIATION6,641
20/(NR)SUPERIOR TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATES – STA JETS6,396
21/(20)SC AVIATION 6,208
22/(NR)JET SELECT (Jet Edge)6,184
23/(NR)BERRY AVIATION6,047
24/(NR)SCOTT AVIATION5,998
25/(NR)PACIFIC COAST JET5,923
Source: Argus TRAQPak

Fourth place Jet Linx Aviation moved from fifth to four, while Mountain Aviation jumped from 10th to fifth in private jet flight hours. Delta Private Jets dropped to sixth place from the fourth spot while Fly Exclusive moved from eighth to ninth. Solairus Aviation fell to eight places from sixth while Jet Edge dropped to ninth from seventh.

Wheels Up, NetJets and Vista Global Holding

While in less than two years, Wheels Up has established itself as the largest Part 135 charter operator, flight hours dropped 23.5% to 135,253 hours in 2020 from 177,875 hours in 2019.

NetJets-owned Executive Jet Management also took a hit with 2020 flight hours dropping to 59,237 to 37,348, a 37% drop.

Vista Global Holding’s XOJET Aviation and Red Wing Aviation together clocked 59,591, an increase of 0.5%.

Of the 10 largest operators, Mountain Aviation and Fly Exclusive saw big increases. Mountain, acquired by Wheels Up last month, saw flight hours surge nearly 60%. North Carolina-based Fly Exclusive, which launched its jet card program last year, saw flight hours grow close to 20%.

Private Jets vs. Airlines

Overall, flight hours by Part 135 operators dropped 15%. Total private aviation industry flight hours dropped 22.5% year-over-year. By contrast, data from the TSA shows the number of airline passengers passing through its checkpoints was still down by 63% in Q4.

Light jet flight hours (-10.3%), midsize jets (-10.9%), and turboprops (-11.6%) all saw similar declines. Large cabin jet flight hours dropped by 28.7%, according to Argus.

The Argus TRAQPak data excludes cargo and scheduled flights under Part 135. For operators with greater than 50% of their aircraft with shares available, they are considered fractional and part of its Part 91K operator analysis.

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