XO and VistaJet parent Vista Global Holding is acquiring on-demand private jet charter broker Apollo Jets and Part 135 operator Talon Air
Talon Air is the 14th largest charter operator in the U.S. It expands Vista Global into aircraft management
In 2018, it bought XOJET. JetSmarter came in 2019. Last year Dubai-based holding company Vista Global Holding snapped up Red Wing Aviation. Now the parent of VistaJet is acquiring on-demand charter broker Apollo Jets. It is also gaining 49% of Apollo’s 70% interest in Part 135 operator and management company Talon Air. The latter is the 14th largest U.S. charter operator based on flight hours, according to Argus TRAQPak.
A Fragmented Market
The move boosts Vista Global’s XO charter brokerage business and expands its N-tail fleet to around 90 aircraft. Talon Air, a management company, shows a fleet of 33 large, super-midsize, and midsize private jets on its website. XO is a combination of the retail sales arms and technology platforms of XOJET and JetSmarter. Dubai-based Vista Global maintains a minority interest in operators XOJET Aviation and Red Wing due to U.S. laws capping foreign ownership.
I believe this is just the beginning of consolidation in our industry…This acquisition expands our global services to a rapidly growing membership and subscription base and furthers our promise to new and current clients, anytime, anywhere.– Thomas Flohr, chairman of Vista Global Holding
In 2020, Talon Air racked up 9,850 flight hours, good for 0.54% of the U.S. shared jet market (Part 135 and 91k flights). It boosts Vista Global’s share to about 4.5% of the market. NetJets, Inc. holds an 18.3% slice of the pie. With its January acquisition of Mountain Aviation, Wheels Up slipped past Directional Aviation’s Flexjet with a 7.4% share, compared to 7.3%.
Charter (Part 135) and Fractional Operator (Part 91k) flights accounted for 52.5% of total U.S. private aviation flight hours in 2020, pushing Part 91 flying (aircraft flown privately for their owners) below the half-century mark for the first time, according to Argus data dating back to 2007
Overall, the 10 largest U.S. charter and fractional operators accounted for 44.3% of Part 91k/135 activity and 23.2% of total business aviation flight hours in 2020.
By comparison, the five largest airlines control 71% of the U.S. domestic market of scheduled carriers, and the top 10 have a 90% market share.
After the deal closes, XO will now offer a full aircraft management service operated by Talon Air. This allows Vista Global to support individual aircraft owners with their maintenance and overhaul needs. XO will integrate Talon Air’s fleet into its various membership and on-demand charter offerings. The deal is expected to close by the end of the month.
Apollo Jets’ VIP Clients
XOJET and Apollo have ties dating back to 2012. Back then, the retailer became the launch partner for XOJET’s platinum broker partnership program.
Apollo Jets was founded in 2008 and is oft-mentioned in conjunction with its VIP and celebrity clients, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. A Politico article in 2019 noted, “When Sanders faced reelection but faced only token opposition, his Senate campaign committee spent $342,000 on Apollo Jets, a private jet service.”
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In 2014, Corporate Jet Investor reported, “Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade are both frequent users of Apollo Jets, a private charter company headquartered in New York.”
Apollo Jets had served as the “flight desk” for Wheels Up when the company was founded in 2013, handling bookings beyond its then King Air exclusive fleet.
In 2014, Apollo became the first ARGUS Certified Charter Broker. It does not have a jet card program. XO offers both fixed-rate and dynamic pricing membership options, both with guaranteed availability. According to the announcement, Apollo has over 4,000 clients.
World’s biggest private jet charter brokers
Combining the XO brokerage business with Apollo will make it one of the largest private jet charter brokers. Privately held U.K.-based Air Charter Service claims annual revenues of nearly $700 million, although that includes freight and group charters, in addition to private jets. Air Partner, a publicly-traded aviation services company, generates over $300 million in charter revenues, including freight and group flights, as well as executive jets.
Before its sale to Vista Global, XOJET reported selling over $100 million per year brokering customers onto other charter operators. The current XO unit is estimated to have at least $150 million in annual sales off-fleet. Apollo is thought to have at least $100 million in revenues.
Vista Global Fleet
According to its website, Talon Air’s current fleet includes a dozen large-cabin private jets. That includes nine Gulfstream types and three Bombardier Challenger 604s. There are 13 super-midsize Beechcraft Hawker 4000s and a Challenger 300. There are also seven Hawker 850/900s. Red Wing Aviation has 15 Citation light jets, and XOJET Aviation has 45 super-midsize Challenger 300s and Citation Xs. Flagship VistaJet has over 70 aircraft, split between Bombardier’s ultra-long-range Globals and super-midsize and large-cabin Challengers.
The Private Aviation M&A Market is Hot
The acquisition continues the industry’s merger and acquisition activity. Wheels Up is preparing to go public after acquiring Delta Private Jets, Gama Aviation Signature, Mountain Aviation, and TMC Jets. Directional Aviation last year launched charter broker FXAIR. That followed its 2018 acquisition of U.K.-based broker PrivateFly and Sirio, a Milan-based management company. Its Flexjet unit recently launched a fractional share and lease program in Europe.
According to the announcement, Apollo will be integrated as a division of XO. At the same time, Talon Air will enable Vista Global to expand its services portfolio through aircraft management. Until now, Vista Global’s various fleets were owned. NetJets through Executive Jet Management and Wheels Up are both major players in management.
In a press release, Thomas Flohr, chairman of Vista Global, said, “I believe this is just the beginning of consolidation in our industry…This acquisition expands our global services to a rapidly growing membership and subscription base and furthers our promise to new and current clients, anytime, anywhere.”