Inside a rival’s campaign to bring down Vista Global

A report by Bloomberg details how AirX Chairman John Matthews allegedly plotted to erode consumer and investor confidence in rival Vista Global.

By Doug Gollan, March 20, 2024

On May 17, 2023, the Financial Times published an expose titled “Private jet disrupter: the debt-fueled ascent of Thomas Flohr’s VistaJet.” Dan McCrum, the same investigative reporter who exposed fraud at Wirecard, bylined the article. His story confirmed what many in the industry had long suspected about the finances of Vista Global, the parent of XO and VistaJet and one of the world’s largest private jet flight providers. A fair number in the industry are skeptical of rollups and question the viability of a floating fleet using new-from-manufacturer airplanes the company owns. Vista checks off both boxes.

By contrast, fractional fleets like those of Netjets and Flexjet are paid for by the flyers who buy shares in an airplane and then get access to the fleet. Typical charter fleets are managed aircraft where the operator doesn’t own the airplanes. The operator manages the airplanes for the owners, usually UHNWs or companies, allowing them to offset expenses by selling charter flights when the principals don’t need them. They are often based where the owner lives, returning to the home base after each flight. Other models entail an operator buying or leasing older aircraft. Many fleets are hybrids. However, what wasn’t known last year as riveted eyeballs scoured over McCrum’s article was it represented the fruits of a six-year quest by a VistaJet rival.

In a private group chat to other executives of his company the same day the story broke, AirX Chairman John Matthews texted one of his subordinates who apparently forwarded the FT article to the agencies that rate Vista’s bonds, Moody’s and Fitch, “If lucky – as in they do their job ‐ bond should be downgraded…”

READ: Fitch affirms B+ outlook for VistaJet, XO parent Vista Global

The next day in the WhatsApp chat, Matthews, whose AirX fleet is owned and leased, but preowned, not new aircraft, wrote:

“We have accomplished a remarkable feat, and I would like to extend my congratulations to everyone involved. It is interesting to watch, but we should now step away from media and opportunity. This subject has been a major part of my life for six years, and I think it’s time to move on. This WhatsApp group is intended for monitoring articles to keep ourselves updated on the situation, as well as keeping track of comments in case our company is mentioned. However, I would like to request that we refrain from actively seeking media coverage for the company. Let’s go back into the shadows and close equity. Get media coverage for the promotion of our business but not to cover the downfall or troubles of Vista. I need to move forward and let go of this burden that’s been weighing me down. Cheers.”

The private group’s title was “Vista Comms,” although the participants were apparently AirX employees and Matthews’ wife. The group photograph was convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Matthews believed that Vista was a house of cards ready to fall.

READ: House of Jet Cards: Evaluating the risks and rewards of a multi-billion-dollar private jet charter product

Thomas Flohr VistaJet Financial Times

On May 5, 2023, in anticipation of the FT piece, the group discussed shorting their competitor’s bonds.

In the face of a concerning trend to only feed consumers positive news, I am committed to leveraging the truth, as it seems to be a rare commodity in our industry.

– John Matthews, Chairman of AirX

Matthews was incredulous that Vista, with its new and expensive airplanes, including its ultra-long-range Globals, was regularly undercutting the charter quotes of his aircraft, most of which were more standard large-cabin jets and at least 15 years old.

WhatsApp about VistaJet

Bloomberg revealed the covert planning last week based on legal filings it accessed from an unrelated court case between Flohr and a former business partner that predates his founding of the private jet flight provider in 2004.

After the Bloomberg piece revealed his involvement, Matthews took to LinkedIn, where he immediately attacked one of the reporters, Sabbah Meddings.

He tagged a 2022 article she authored for another publication, The Times of London, titled “VistaJet boss Thomas Flohr: My luxury jets are boosting Britain.”

Matthews posted, “I was disappointed to learn that a former Times journalist, now with Bloomberg, who once wrote a piece lauding Thomas Flohr as “Boosting Britain” something I could not disagree with more, both then and now, failed to include my comments in full in her article.”

Bloomberg Thomas Flohr

He followed with his apparent comment: “AirX and Mr. Matthews vigorously deny any allegations of improper conduct by Mr Flohr. We have legitimate fears about the financial position of VistaJet, about which VistaJet’s own auditor has also voiced concern. A collapse of VistaJet would leave customers out of pocket and damage the industry as a whole.”

Matthews gave me a similar statement.

As I reached out to set up a time to talk to Matthews, asking more questions after reviewing newly and now publicly available information, Matthews emailed me, “[We] know you are supportive of Vista. And it’s clear you are out to try and attack me, but it’s part of the challenge to make it objective.”

A WhatsApp group transcript shows that instead of going “back into the shadows,” it remained active into 2024.

Matthews continued his campaign of providing financial documents about privately held Vista Global.

It also reveals how the group planned around the upcoming FT story.

On April 7, 2023, Matthews wrote, “When article comes out, we get a higher value.”

A letter from Vista’s attorneys to Matthews filed in Malta, where AirX is registered, notes, “You shared a video (file name 00000488-VIDEO-2023-04-25-14-20-51.mp4) to the WhatsApp group at 2:20 PM on 25 April 2023, which was apparently taken on your telephone, showing various computer screens containing Vista-related documents and including the song ‘Time to say goodbye’ playing in the background. You followed up with a message stating: ‘I will in a strange way miss Thomas.’”

On April 19, 2023, Matthews authored the first of more than a dozen articles on LinkedIn about Loss-Making Operators or LMOs.

In his first post, he predicted, “The words ‘Jet Card’ will be removed from UHNWI vocabulary for some time after the market correction. Just like ‘CDO’ was post-2008…”

Jet cards, like fractional ownership, which was invented in the 1980s, have a history dating back to 1999. Both seek to offer flyers an alternative between on-demand charter, where flights are booked and priced trip by trip, and the project of owning your own private jet.

If your jet card company fails, you are likely to be an unsecured creditor, although a third party could swoop in and buy the company.

READ: Six reasons not to buy a jet card

Yet, the most interesting part of the FT’s story was it was factually correct.

Vista’s subscription model entails customers giving money for future flights. Those monies, at least in part, fund operations. Undermining that confidence could mean fewer deposits, creating a cash crunch.

The documents Matthews shared with the journalists he was courting (including me) were mainly Vista’s quarterly financials and the 2023 bond prospectus that was the basis for much of the FT report.

They were marked “strictly confidential.” In fact, they were what Vista sends to its bondholders.

The reports were, to say the least, highly complicated and confusing, at least to somebody with limited financial acumen. I told Matthews if he was successful in getting a qualified reporting team to analyze and publish a story, I would cover it, which I did. The links are inserted in the relevant copy below.

In a legal letter from Vista to Matthews, its lawyers note that the documents in its investor portal carry a non-disclosure agreement. The letter also asserts that, from the group chat, he was aware that materials he allegedly distributed from the unrelated Flohr litigation were in apparent violation of a court order.

The FT article’s assertions about Vista mainly revolved around the company’s net losses over the previous four years, its ballooning debt, and its far less cash on hand than the value of flights owed to members of its jet card programs, which had given it funds for future flights.

Flohr and executives have countered the main points of McCrum’s FT piece.

He told CNBC the net losses are a result of how Vista depreciates its aircraft.

He told the cable business channel, “The company has a very conservative depreciation policy where over 13 years, we depreciate our aircraft to zero. That’s, as a private company, a choice we are making as a conservative policy we have in place… If we just mark to market the airplanes, the company would be highly profitable.”

The deficit of cash to deferred revenue Flohr has said was based on a snapshot of its Dec. 31, 2022, balance sheet.

He argues that since Vista spent the money to buy the airplanes and companies (unlike fractional operators, where the share customers buy the airplanes, and managed fleets, where the airplanes are managed for owners and then marketed for charter by the management company that operates them), his cost to fly customers when they call is in the low 20-cent-on-the-dollar range.

He and Vista executives say the increasing debt was a result of Vista’s expansion plans—buying new airplanes and other companies, creating scale, and expanding its network.

READ: What happens to your jet card and private jet membership deposits? and How not to get burned when you buy a private jet membership

The FT piece also highlighted that Flohr was making money buying airplanes from Bombardier and selling them to Vista, something that was disclosed in the bond offering.

In one message, apparently about how to frame the story for reporters, Matthews said to his group in March 2023, “It is essential that we bring attention to the page numbers and the magnitude of Thomas Flohr’s riches in comparison to the overall debt that was produced in the company as soon as possible today, at the absolute latest by early afternoon.”

Flohr was briefly on the Forbes’ Billionaires List and lives a lifestyle that rivals any of his UHNW clients that he shows off regularly via social media and company press releases.

In terms of the business, since 2018, Vista has acquired all or parts of XOJet, Red Wing Aviation, Jet Smarter, Apollo Jets, Talon Air, Jet Edge, and Air Hamburg.

In some cases, Dubai-based holding company Vista Global can only own a minority of the operator due to foreign ownership restrictions, although it can own the airplanes, part of its model.

The M&A took Flohr’s company from around 80 airplanes in 2018 to over 300 currently. He told Forbes he wants to have 1,000 by 2030.

At about the same time, Matthews seemingly had his own issues.

According to a lawsuit filed by Avmax Aircraft Leasing Inc. against AirX, during 2020, it had “fallen deep into arrears” on aircraft leases due to the Covid pandemic.

On Sept. 1, 2021, Avmax “issued termination notices for the leases and demanded that the aircraft be grounded by the following day.”

At the time, Air X owed Avmax $18.2 million, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile Matthews was watching LMOs like Wheels Up and Vista raising billions from public and private markets.

He also saw their PR machines generating millions of dollars in earned media via public relations pitches that focused on fancy recipes created by celebrity chefs, Alice in Wonderland inflight parties for your kids, special services about pets, and virtually anything but the bottom line.

Wheels Up, which went public in July 2021, predicted it would be profitable within two years, but it still has not achieved this. In fact, last year, it needed a rescue package led by Delta Air Lines to avert bankruptcy.

READ: Jet It Lessons: What happens when your private jet provider fails?

For Vista, whose finances were still under wraps, it had so far been able to avoid the financial scrutiny Matthews longed for.

Fake News

Matthews praised me on social media when I wrote about how companies use prepaid jet card funds, calling it an “excellent piece.”

It was apparently before Matthews launched a program or at least promoted it on his website, an AirX membership.

In the post, he noted, “Brokers lose clients to pre-paid jet card type system daily because the passenger is offered a ‘too good to be true’ rate – little do they know they are funding loss-making businesses that need someone else to join up to pay for their flights!”

In fact, Vista’s bond offering shows its jet card members pay a higher price than on-demand buyers.

In exchange, they can book on a guaranteed basis with contract rates and cancel flights without penalty globally with as little as 48 hours’ notice.

If one of Vista’s planes has a mechanical issue, it provides its program customers with a replacement aircraft without any additional charges.

The pitch is you get similar benefits to fractional programs without having to lay out the capital to buy a piece of an airplane.

At the same time, you don’t have to worry about requotes, factor-in repositioning charges, or penalties if you cancel a flight if your schedule changes, which can impact on-demand charter.

If you are in Cape Town on Wednesday, you can book a flight to Zurich on Saturday and receive an immediate confirmation at your contracted price. If your meeting in Switzerland is postponed on Thursday, you can cancel without penalty.

If you do that type of flying or have other specific needs, VistaJet has few peers. By contrast, sister XO often provides some of the lowest prices for specific U.S. routes.

READ: Here’s what you need to know about VistaJet before you buy

One month before the FT story, Matthews began a series of what is now 19 articles he wrote and posted on LinkedIn in which he coined the acronym LMO, which stands for Loss Making Operator.

The purpose was ostensibly to warn the industry and public about what he believed would be the ramifications of a large flight provider failure.

In an article from last December, he titled one section, “Lessons from History: The Ghosts of Theranos and Madoff.”

He wrote, “The practices we in the industry know and see (we are more in tune with this than investors, sadly) in the private jet industry, where LMOs (loss-making operators) sell Jet cards but spend the money without generating profits and instead use it for their own lifestyle, are clearly misleading and unethical.”

In the same LinkedIn post skewering Bloomberg, he added:

“I am dedicated to pursuing the whole truth within our sector… and I am not satisfied with only partial truths. For years, I have observed a trend of selective reporting and biased journalism, where success is often misrepresented, masking the alarming financial realities of certain operators.

Ironically, my private conversations aimed at addressing these very concerns were mentioned at a legal hearing involving significant legal proceedings against Thomas Flohr. The legal proceedings received scant attention from Bloomberg. I wonder if sector media will focus on the fraud trial hearings and the claim as much as they will on my WhatsApp messages. Let’s see! 

It is disconcerting that the specialist aviation sector media do not cover critical issues, particularly questionable financial transactions and court hearings.

I have seen very little coverage by private aviation sector media of the Financial Times article by Dan McCrum, which objectively highlighted the perilous state of VistaJet’s financial position and explained Thomas Flohr’s related party transactions and even fewer column inches that draw attention to the ongoing trial in the Royal Courts of Justice where Thomas is facing allegations of fraud.

Ask yourself why this might be?

The absence of impartial financial reporting in our sector is palpable. Yes, of course, there is a feeling of being alone, and more so when such things are published. However, despite feeling isolated and, at times, overwhelmed, the support from my followers and the constructive dialogue it fosters bolster my resolve. In other words – thank you. The overwhelming majority of this sector comprises kind, lovely, passionate people.

 In the face of a concerning trend to only feed consumers positive news, I am committed to leveraging the truth, as it seems to be a rare commodity in our industry. I have always aimed to provide transparent commentary based on my interpretation of the financial data of companies with publicly traded securities

In a world often measured by material wealth and positions of power, I find my richest treasures within the core of who I am. My voice may not echo in the halls of the mighty, nor does my influence stretch across vast networks. Yet, my determination beats with unwavering conviction in the values I hold dear… to present the financial truth in our sector vs. the constant selective sector PR the consumers are given.  

It is believed Gandhi may have said: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.’

I was ignored for years; then, I was laughed at. I believe the attack has now begun.

My journey might be largely solitary, but I strongly believe that it will lead to a brighter, more honest future for the sector.  

With gratitude and resolve, my warmest regards.”

Yet a review of the AirX WhatsApp group showed that while the executives updated each other on their efforts to get various journalists to pick up their narrative about Vista (including this one), they also discussed how any harm done to Vista via their efforts could benefit them.

That included the possibility of being able to pick up aircraft to bolster the AirX fleet and raise prices.

While Vista had long mainly owned or leased its aircraft, its Air Hamburg acquisition brought a number of managed aircraft. That means it operated aircraft for the jet owners, making them available for charter at the owner’s discretion.

The immediate fallout from the FT piece published on May 17th was that several owners of airplanes under Air Hamburg’s management, concerned about payments, were considering grounding the airplanes or at least not permitting Vista to offer them on the charter market.

On March 24, 2023, as McCrum was working on his article, Matthews wrote him, “In recent months, we have had to respond aggressively by discounting our charter rates for older Challenger 850s to price‐match VistaJet on its fleet of much newer Global 6000s.”

After the article, on May 18, 2023, Matthews wrote the group, “It is imperative to have this information as the grounding of the fleet necessitates an immediate increase in our rates. We could easily add on €1k an hour. If this (more like when) happens.”

Matthews’ efforts led to additional articles about Vista’s finances in German media and The Wall Street Journal, with messages to journalists as recently this year.

Air X’s jet card

When I asked Matthews, after the Bloomberg piece, the difference between what he is doing with his membership offer and Vista, he answered as follows:

“The shortest way to answer your question on the difference between AirX and VistaJet is that our FY23 deferred revenue/contract liabilities/jet card liabilities (whatever you want to call then) are less than 1% of our revenues. (Whenever advanced payments are taken from brokers this is only 1 to 3 days before the flight so is negligible).

Based on Vista’s FY22 financials (because so far as I know, FY23 financials are not yet released) (and please check all numbers yourself) contract liabilities of $831.5 million equates to 35% of flight revenues of $2,376 million. This is all the more alarming to me given their cash balance at the same time was $134 million.

Thomas was asked about this by CNBC in an interview a few days after the FT/Dan McCrum article, and his response is one that you have quoted… to paraphrase, that it only costs Vista about 22% of the value of the liabilities to put on the flight. Surely if that were true, this would imply Vista is a 78% gross margin business?

You know that would be very difficult for any charter operator achieve. And the proof that may not be true, I believe can be found in their financial statements. As hard as they may try to keep these under wraps, these have to be produced and shared as they have a publicly traded bond.

In FY22 ‘expenses for materials and services’ was $1.35bn alone. That cost item is 57% of flight revenue. Based on this I would love for you to explain to me how his claim that the flights owed would costs just 22% of the deferred liability could be true? I sincerely mean that. What is it that I, and many others, are missing that you are sufficiently confident of to have quoted him in your publication? 

Of course, day-to-day liquidity, and sources and uses of working capital is the life blood essential to the smooth operations of any company. But this level of liability owed to its clients, coupled with ongoing financial losses, a growing debt pile (both unsecured bonds and debt secured on aircraft) that seems essential to continue to fund the company’s existence must surely be unsustainable? How can it not be? My opinions are just that… They are opinions. But these opinions which I make no secret of, are based on hours of thorough examination of every number and footnote in their financial statements, and questions and discussions with financial experts with far more experience than I have. 

Even Vista’s auditors have started to raise an eyebrow citing FY22 losses of c.$140 million, accumulated losses of c.$226 million, c.$1.4 billion of excess current liabilities over current assets, and a debt-to-equity ratio of 23.5x as the main reasons to raise significant doubt as to the group’s ability to continue as a going concern. 

A collapse of Vista would be terrible for the reputation of our industry and even worse for the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people who work in it. I would love nothing more than for VistaJet to operate as a genuinely profitable business. To be clear, by profit I do not mean EBITDA, which is the main metric Thomas likes to promote.

This metric can never represent real profit if its definition omits interest charges on billions of debt, and hundreds of millions of depreciation and amortization. The IFRS numbers tell the true picture. VistaJet’s Profit Before Tax for Q3-2023 was negative $60 million. That is a huge loss in a summer quarter Doug. If it can’t make money in a summer quarter, then how can it ever make money? I know this has been dismissed by blaming the refurbishment costs… but this is a cash cost that is surely capitalized and then amortized over its useful life so I do not think this should have sufficient impact to destroy a summer quarter to that extent. 

I would far rather talk to you about some of the exciting things that we are doing with our fledgling pre-paid flight program (or jet card – we are not hung up on what it’s called). We wanted to design the fairest possible membership/jet card contract so when we put in a fuel price escalator mechanism (to protect against rising fuel costs) we also put in a fuel price de-escalator, which causes the live rate to reduce when fuel prices fall.

We were really excited when fuel price fell this month and triggered the first reduction in live rate. It was only a very small amount, but we wondered if you are aware of any other jet card / membership programs that included something like this? 

You may well have very different opinions on VistaJet than I do. But whatever those differences are should not prevent us from working together on matters where we are aligned and in agreement for mutual benefit.”

John Matthews LinkedIN

AirX on LinkedIn

After emailing Matthews last night about additional topics I wanted to cover via a proposed interview this Friday, this morning, he published on LinkedIn the following:

Good afternoon, Industry.

Round 2

A Private Jet sector-specific ‘journalist’ has threatened to incorporate some of my private messages concerning Vista to be released on Friday, which will no doubt try to benefit Thomas and Vista.

Intimidation – I will respond with a common theme: approaching the industry with the truth in hand as my sword.

A Recap

As previously stated, I have become aware of private messages from a WhatsApp group intended for discussions about Vistajet and its finances and the Fraud Hearings against Thomas Flohr. Arguing Fraud against Thomas is (barrister) KC – Sir Geoffrey Cox.

These messages, which featured not only professional insights but also personal moments such as daily experiences and family photos, somehow ended up in the hands of Thomas Flohr.

My legal team is reviewing the circumstances surrounding this fascinating incident. As I have stated, it is a fascinating experience, and I suggest these are efforts to divert attention away from the Fraud Hearings.

Anyway, now they appear to have found a Vistajet-friendly journalist inside our industry who appears ‘primed,’ if you will, for an article.

Ask yourself why…

So, I am publishing this. I am not scared and stand in the ring waiting.

The encroachment into my personal life has been disturbing, to say the least. But I say this to those few against me – who are attempting to damper my energy, scare me, and make me feel isolated: 

“Never underestimate a person who is determined and armed with the truth. Such individuals possess an unwavering resolve and the clarity of purpose that can move mountains and bring about profound change.”

Every time you hit me, I write out the truth.

Why am I writing this to you all? 

I was alerted via email last night that an industry-specific journalist is set to shape the narrative to benefit Vista this Friday. 

I’m concerned that it will be biased. Therefore, I wanted to address it in an open letter to the industry.

I appreciate your understanding and support as we move forward.

Previous ‘journalistic’ coverage of Vista seems to overlook important concerns. As a result, I am writing ahead of time because I believe there is an attempt (ask yourself why?) to undermine my efforts to bring openness and integrity to the forefront. 

What appears to have been ‘missed’ in prior papers covering Vistajet:

  1. DOJ fines Thomas for trading Global 6000 hours for a property in the United States
  2. Royal Courts of Justice Fraud hearings
  3. VistaJet’s financial situation
  4. EY’s warning letter on the company’s standing and debt-to-asset ratio instead that ratio was missed
  5. Related Party Transactions in which one man becomes rich while one firm incurs ever-increasing debt and losses
  6. The last quarter accounts issued (again, it has a public bond!) of Vistajet, which posted a -$59.2 million deficit (in the summer!)
  7. The fact that Summer loss was worse than the previous Q3 losses of -$44m
  8. The $949 million owing to clients as prepayments
  9. Reference to the FT instead of numbers was referred to as the Financial Times seeking to ‘spook prospects’ – really?

None of that seems to make any objective reference.

Instead, the attention has (yet again) moved to personal attacks and attempts to undermine my credibility, and it appears that the pro-Vista keyboard will type against me again.

I am ready.

Editor’s Note: From Private Jet Card ComparisonsVistaJet, XO boss Flohr responds to FT article on Vista Global on CNBC; Financial Times: VistaJet, XO parent Vista Global debt, net losses mounting

 It’s a typical case of targeting the messenger rather than addressing the issue. 

So, I am leading an early charge rather than being placed into a counterattack against the upcoming attack; here we go, onto the beaches!

Attack #1 – Responded to the Industry First: ‘We have a message where you said you would raise rates if Vista didn’t exist.’

So, what?

The journalist appears to accuse me of hypocrisy because I cannot care about the roughly $1 billion in prepayments from clients and billions paid by bondholders while wanting to boost AirX charter rates.

That is ridiculous. Why can’t they exist simultaneously?

Why would I not want to boost rates and increase pricing on certain routes when the sector is offering record lows in pricing?

Another reason: Here’s why: I occasionally have to compete against a corporation that makes this statement.  

‘We do not look below the EBITDA line – Thomas Flohr CNBC 18th May 2023.’

My response ‘Nuts.’

Well, here is the truth: I do!

Because it is below the EBITDA, you will find cash.

 Companies do not thrive or fail based on EBITDA; they fail due to cash flow.

 The reasoning is easy to understand: My aircraft competes with an operation that views earnings solely in terms of ‘EBITDA’ rather than net cash profits.

As a result, it publishes so many quarters of losses that EY reports it has a $1.4 billion liquidity gap and poses a significant risk to continuing operations—who on earth would think I’d relish trying to match their price?

What was accused against me is that by hoping and dreaming of higher rates, I am a hypocrite. I quote, ‘It could easily appear like the pot calling the kettle black’—so I know how this article will be written!

 Attack No. 2: ‘I see you agreed to a 25k fine to the DOT.’

Yes, about 5 or 6 years ago (or even more). Here’s why:

When I had an American business, I remember publishing an empty sector for an American registered citation X. The problem is that I performed it from the non-operator side, which is not permitted by Department of Transport standards—I was incorrect, and it was a true mistake. 

The fine was $25,000, which was a little harsh for a social media empty-leg post, but there’s little doubt that I was mistaken; it should have been posted by the operator rather than the ownership at the European level – lesson learned!

What on earth does this have to do with the Fraud Case against Thomas Flohr?

No coverage it seems that the Department of Justice fined Thomas Flohr circa $17 million for saying ‘you have hours, I will have the mansion house’ to a now-wanted ex-Nigerian oil minister, and this journalist wants to cover my incorrectly posted empty leg fine from six years ago – ask yourself why?

Editor’s Note: From Private Jet Card ComparisonsDid a VistaJet client pay for private jet flights with a $21.6 million house? and Vista Global’s Flohr pays $16 million to end U.S. government dispute

The third attack is this: ‘You had issues with your Canadian lessor years ago.’

So, what? In any event, we won one, two, or three (I can’t remember it was so long ago) injunctions to defend ourselves and have the best relationship ever with our Canadian lessor now, so what’s the point?

What does this have to do with the Fraud Trail Hearing against Thomas Flohr or the EY warning about their trading position or their debt? ask yourself why?

Anyway, in the spirit of the truth, I had a legal disagreement with a lessor years ago; we obtained injunctions in Canada and reached an amicable resolution. From there, some new top management was appointed in Canada, and we have done nothing but thrive with them – like a family.

I argue that a specific operator collaborated with an individual or group of individuals (who are not there now!) at the leasing firm to create an unusual “default” notice on me.

The entire thing was done incorrectly with three different amounts (which vary by tens of millions of dollars!), and I also suspect and allege that the operator had made deposits for my aircraft prior to the event.

Needless to say, the judge saw right through it, and we are here today with a fantastic relationship with our Canadian lessor; in fact, if everything goes well, we will make a big announcement one day about a number of airline conversions to private jets with them – lots to do, but it is going well!

I believe the goal of this attack (after establishing I am useless at posting empty legs in America) is to make it appear that I was financially unstable in the past (how ironic!).

To be completely honest with you, I haven’t always gotten it right like I have the last two years. It’s a complex business, and it’s taking me some time to learn how to get it running smoothly in every cost line item and how to be a decent leader. But again, so what?

I don’t think I excelled at leadership throughout my last decade of schooling, but I have become a much better one now. Mistakes – teach.

 Lastly, and this I find most odd to write about – It is also true that I have autism, but I will not be cast down because of it.

I’ve learned the ‘art of listening’  via numerous hours of therapy and coaching, and I believe I’ve become a better leader as a result, but there is still more work to do. I never stop learning!

What we’ve done is this, which is quite fantastic and unique – yet zero mention!

We have, however, taken the company and grown from a loss-making entity to a profitable one without an external funder, external investment, overdraft agreement, public funding, equity funding, or taking large prepayments from clients.

In fact, our total prepayments, I think (off the top of my head typing this out before an afternoon of meetings), represent less than 1% or 2% of our annual revenue.

We took a company and, without investment, grew sales from €8m annually to circa €165m – bootstrapped!

Before I finish – This is a classic example of what I believe is completely incorrect regarding the ‘journalism’ in this sector:

Published on “What you need to know for Vista” to consumers and the industry, ‘an oversubscribed bond offering in which Vista raised $500 million.’

It is almost as if Vistajet had that as an additional long-term balance – but they didn’t.

The truth can be found (public bond info), and under ‘use of proceeds,’ its clear where the money is going:

  1. Pay principal amounts owed under certain of our credit programs.
  2. Pay for our revolving credit facility.
  3. Pay our Bridge Loan.
  4. Pay for some aircraft facilities.
  5. Additionally, any accrued and unpaid interest in each instance
  6. Pay applicable prepayment fees and offering charges.
  7. The remaining proceeds will be used for general company purposes.

Point 7 is what the company would have left over, yet no mention of the calculated daily cash burn!

How can any company be in a strong position and get such favorable biased journalism if it needs to organize bridge loans until the bond is issued?

 How can the financials, time and time again, be brushed to one side to persecute anyone willing to speak the truth?

I no longer feel alone in my pursuit of truth and transparency.

 Thank you for reading my post. To the entire industry, your support warms my heart and boosts my spirits and determination.  

I stand with each of you who believes in the core values of our industry; together, we can defend these ideals and assure a future where ethical business practices are not only aspirational, but the standard, and stop this entire ‘record trading this and that’ false message that is being poured into our sector.

 In unity and gratitude.

John (Matthews)


This was my “threatening” email:

On 20 Mar 2024, at 01:18, Doug Gollan <> wrote:

Hi John –

Are you around Friday – I’m traveling tomorrow and Thursday – I’ve been working on the article – and I have a few more questions –

I received a transcript of the WhatsApp –

So – I know you keep saying you are looking out for consumers – but at the same time it seems like you are talking about raising prices if some VJ aircraft are grounded, raising money (Certares?), so it could be interpreted that the objective in bringing awareness to Vista’s finances were to benefit your business?

I’d like you to address that – we can talk off the record – but I would like an answer to include in the interview –

I also see you were agreed to a 25k fine w the DOT and then there was a lawsuit with Avmax after you defaulted on lease payments.

REDACTED TO PROTECT OFF THE RECORD INFORMATION MATTHEWS PREVIOUSLY TOLD ME ABOUT HIS BUSSINES (I took off your CC to protect that) – but can you give me your explanation on the two points above –

It could easily appear like the pot calling the kettle black – not sure if that translates across the Atlantic – but another interpretation is that your LinkedIn posts about LMOs and potential damage to industry with consumers don’t line up with your internal discussions – getting airplanes from AH/VJ, raising prices, getting investment, etc.

PS – In your last response you say about your membership – but as you know I’ve been offering and asking to include it since I became aware of it in Dec and have yet to receive anything?

Looking forward to speaking – we can go off the record for whatever you want – but I will want you to give me an on-the-record response to the points above –

Thanks, Doug

From: John Matthews <>

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024 at 2:04 AM

To: Doug Gollan <>

Subject: Re: Hi John –

Hello Doug,

Can’t wait. Some of those facts are wrong.

Also, we are or eating legal action on the article and have found a funder, as we know you are supportive of vista. And it’s clear you are out to try and attack me, but it’s part of the challenge to make it objective.

Can I have sight of what you and Vista will print against me before it goes out.


Sent from my iPhone

On 20 Mar 2024, at 02:27, Doug Gollan <> wrote:

Hi John,

I’m just up and going back to bed – Happy to talk Friday –

I’m not for or against any provider or program – I simply look at them all from the perspective of the rule sets and policies, pricing and how they fit or don’t fit the needs of subscribers –

You’ve been telling me Vista was about to fail since the beginning of 2020.

You’ve couched our discussions and your social media in that you are trying to do a service warning consumers that they are about to lose their money with LBOs.

The WhatsApp messages seem to have a different slant – so I want to make sure I am not missing any context – 

That’s the goal of talking to you is honoring our off-the-record discussions and providing an opportunity to correct anything that I’ve gotten wrong, and certainly to tell your side of the Bloomberg piece.

I already have your earlier response, which I will print full and unedited – 

Best, Doug

​​​Doug Gollan

President & Editor‑in‑Chief

(Editor’s Note: On March 22, 2024, Vista responded to this story: “In your article on March 20, 2024, you quoted a third-party post on LinkedIn that includes incorrect information. We would like to correct the record, as Thomas Flohr is not fighting a fraud trial in UK courts. There presently is no plea of fraud in the pleaded case which Mr. Flohr is seeking to have struck out at the earliest stage without the requirement to file a defense.”)

Final thoughts

There are companies in the industry who, without a doubt, agree with Matthews’s assessment of LMOs for a variety of reasons.

The consensus of people I talked to is also that AirX would benefit from Vista’s downfall.

There are two things I say quite a bit when talking to members of Private Jet Card Comparisons.

That is, “If I had a dollar for every time somebody had told me some provider was about to go out of business, I would have enough money to fly privately,” and “Don’t use your kids’ college funds to buy jet cards.”

Since I focus nearly exclusively on flight providers (operators, brokers, and hybrids) that have programmatic offerings (I don’t have the bandwidth to cover the thousands that don’t), I told Matthews that having his membership offering in the Private Jet Card Comparisons database would allow me to cover Air X, his program, and why he thinks it’s different and better than other offerings.

I invited him on Dec. 19, 2023, to provide me with the details so I could include them in the comparisons.

There is no fee for providers to be included in my database. I just need the data so paid members can compare, and AirX is welcome to provide me with their information and be included.

That invitation is still open.

Related Articles

Visit DG Amazing Experiences

Find the perfect solution for your private aviation needs

Make the right decision

If you want a program-by-program comparison of more than 250 products from more than 50 companies covering 65 points of differentiation and over 40,000 data points.