More Than a Fairy Tale

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VistaJet US President Ron Silverman says the company is looking forward to a strong 2018 as one of business and VIP aviation’s latest Unicorns

VistaJet enjoyed a great 2017. In a recent press release it described ‘a year of incredible growth’, with more than 50,000 passengers flown for the first time in its history, double-digit growth in the US and Asia, and 50% growth in Middle East Program customers year-on-year. Perhaps most significantly, “…following investment from funds affiliated with Rhône Capital, the company’s equity is valued well in excess of $2.5bn, cementing VistaJet’s position as one of the top five European unicorns by funding.” Business aviation unicorns are a rare breed indeed.

According to Thomas Flohr, VistaJet’s Founder and Chairman, quoted in the release, “We had our strongest ever year in 2017. We head into 2018 in a fantastic position. While some of our smaller competitors are finding trading challenging, with our unicorn status and robust operational foundations we are ideally placed to lead the market and seize any new opportunities that arise. We are committed to becoming the No.1 player in every market in which we operate, and we are on course to make great strides towards that goal over the next twelve months.”

Even based on a successful 2017, Flohr’s predictions for 2018 are lofty, but VistaJet’s US President, Ron Silverman, told EVA: “2018 looks incredibly positive. 2017 confirmed the growth trend for the industry, and VistaJet significantly outpaced it once again in all markets – VistaJet is the market’s favourite business model and is leading the growth. We expect to continue the momentum in 2018.

“People are travelling more globally, for business and pleasure. They are looking for bigger aircraft that can fly longer and to more distant destinations. Longer flight time requires larger cabins, so passengers arrive refreshed after non-stop journeys. VistaJet is the only company able to accommodate all their global needs.

“Consumers are looking for newer fleets with more detailed services. Attention to design and newness is always a winning point. We know our customers really care about consistency, premium design and the fact they can access one of the youngest fleets in the industry. With regard to service, we provide a sophisticated elegance, an incredible added value that matches clients’ lifestyle on the ground and feels organic to their preferences and attitudes. We expect more excitement in the market with the launch of new long-range aircraft models such as the Global 7000.”

Its promise of unprecedented range, ride quality and comfort, means the Global 7000 is already exciting the market. Silverman regards it as a stand-out model but won’t be drawn on VistaJet’s plans for the largest Global. “It’s a fantastic project and VistaJet customers who fly long distances are eager for the aircraft to begin service. Thomas Flohr holds delivery positions for the Global 7000, but at present we can’t confirm any fleet plans.”

VistaJet’s 72-aircraft fleet is entirely Bombardier-based, comprising Challengers and Globals, the majority registered in Malta, while Jet Aviation manages and operates the US-dedicated aircraft. “We feel very comfortable with the Bombardier product cycle and how much they’re ahead of the competition,” Silverman says. “Bombardier is extremely strong, they’re delivering their product on time and they’re here to stay for a very long time. Also, the consistent quality and appearance of its aircraft is a key attraction and point of reassurance for clients.”

The VistaJet fleet carries a discrete, but instantly recognisable livery and the feeling of familiarity continues in the cabin, with consistent furnishing and even a distinctive VistaJet aroma. It could all add up to something like a luxury airline, rather than an exclusive executive and VIP offering, but Silverman dismisses the idea. “Our clients care first and foremost about our unparalleled safety standards, the global coverage only VistaJet can guarantee, and the convenience of our business model – the service simply matches their daily requirements, and adds to the pleasure of the flight, after other criteria have been satisfied.

“The identical fleet builds familiarity, and a feeling of home away from home, while the personal service we offer designs each flight around the passenger and makes it unique. We study our clients’ preferences to provide a bespoke service including their preferred food and beverage choices, the publications they like to read, the way they like the aircraft set up. The attention to detail we place on our aircraft design and service style simply matches our passengers’ everyday lifestyle. Their houses, their cars, the hotels they stay in, they’re the reference we have in mind when creating their private environment.”

Unicorn Maker
VistaJet’s success is founded on what it calls FSP, the Flight Solution Program, or simply the ‘Program’. “It provides all the benefits of a personal jet without the responsibility that comes with owning an aircraft. It’s designed for corporations, high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs who need to fly regularly with guaranteed availability at a fixed price per hour,” Silverman explains, while acknowledging that on-demand service is also available. He reckons the popularity of on-demand flying generally is actually bringing people to FSP. “The Program is resonating with traditional and new clients, as the ‘on-demand’ macro-trend highlights the economic benefits of avoiding full or fractional aircraft ownership. Adding to this, with our global coverage and proprietary technological infrastructure, we’re best placed to meet increasing demand from the most discerning consumers.”

The Program has seen VistaJet through industry-wide recession thanks, Silverman believes, to the quality of its people and their drive to deliver the optimal solution to customer needs. “All VistaJet employees are tasked with being innovators and always putting customers first. It’s something they take very seriously and have great pride in, and it goes all the way up to the senior management team; we have a passion for providing the ultimate customer service and flying experience. It’s a passion to provide best-in-class solutions to our clients’ needs. No other aviation company has invested to create a global offering, which means there is a clear VistaJet advantage for the most demanding passengers.

“But our great results also come from loyalty and recommendation. Not only do we provide a solid business model, we also strive to provide exceptional experiences, making sure every minute with us is enriching. For example, more than 80% of our clients have a real passion for art – it’s one of their main personal interests and we fly some of the world’s most prominent art collectors. This is the primary reason we supported the global tour and exhibition of The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, which is expected to be the most valuable private collection ever sold at auction.”

Talking to the Unicorn
Just as each of its customers demands a unique travel experience, so VistaJet acknowledges their choice in how and when they arrange to fly. Requests come in by phone, from the web, and through social media and chats, Silverman noting: “That’s why we recently launched a booking service on WeChat, just for Chinese customers.”

The company also offers a couple of apps. “The private aviation industry is starting to innovate, and VistaJet is leading the change. We’ve developed an app for our Program clients to make booking flights easier, faster and more convenient, and we’ve recently launched VistaJet Direct. It’s a digital membership providing access to VistaJet empty leg and one-way flights.”

After downloading Direct and joining the membership, customers can see and book at special rates, while the offer of empty legs opens the opportunity of flying VistaJet more often and at short notice. It’s available to all VistaJet clients and also facilitates faster booking, flight itinerary checking and preference confirmation.

As the industry innovates through apps and other alternative booking methods, so Silverman sees younger customers responding positively. “Technology is bringing them closer. They have more flexibility, so they seek on-demand solutions as opposed to buying an aircraft. And they want it faster and with transparent pricing. This is why we’re seeing the demand for our Direct app.”

At the same time though, VIP flying remains an intimate business, based on personal relationships and built on trust; even folk booking through an app or chat are reassured by the knowledge there’s an expert voice available on the end of the phone should they need help. It’s a fact entirely recognised at VistaJet: “There’s a dedicated team following our Program clients personally through every stage of their flight booking and operation,” Silverman confirms. “Our goal is to provide a memorable, stress-free flight experience, anytime, anywhere.”