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Private Jets on Demand: Thomas Flohr Revolutionizes Aviation With Two Revolutionary Brands

27 September 2022, 14:59 CET

Thomas Flohr has always been a mover and a shaker. In 2004, after noticing a massive underutilization of private jets, the Swiss-born businessman decided to do something about it. He founded VistaJet, which flies Fortune 500, government, corporate, and private clients around the globe - anywhere, anytime - through a subscription-based membership program. The concept, he told Barron's in 2020, is about "guaranteed availability as an alternative to ownership."

In 2019, he again disrupted the private aviation space by launching XO, the digital marketplace offering flights on demand. "2019 was a year to integrate," Flohr told Barron's. "We have a startup mentality, but also a global mentality."

His mission is to make traveling as user-friendly as possible. "People can be more productive, work, and gain time," he said in Barron's. "There's probably a large cabin on Singapore Airlines that's the same size as a private plane's cabin, but you need to fly when they fly. We're connecting the world and making some of the most influential people in the world more efficient."

The Thomas Flohr Effect

He also has his sights set on the millennial market. Flohr said that in recent years flying has become less about ownership and more about the experience — in some cases a shared one. "The major trend we see [among millennials] is that they actually think it's boring to fly alone," Flohr said in Barron's. (XO allows members to buy and sell unused seats on crowdsourced flights and single seats on scheduled flights.)

"They want to share, and they want to travel together. The 'X' in XO for me is 'exchange,'" Flohr added. "The sharing concept of the cabin is something straight out of the mindset of millennials."

Flohr believes the idea of crowdsourcing private travel is the future, largely in part because cabins aren't currently being filled to capacity. "They carry, on average, 2.3 passengers, though they fit anywhere from eight to 16 people," Flohr explained in Barron's. What if clients could share the wealth, he asked, "and find — through technology — people that are like-minded to travel with you, and cut the flight cost in half. It's transformational."

Soaring Success

The numbers speak to the success of VistaJet and XO. "We have delivered all-time record-breaking figures as a result of the huge demand for our subscription, membership, and on-demand offerings," Flohr told Ultimate Jet magazine. "There is clearly a paradigm shift in the global client's view of private aviation and Vista's world-leading position has enabled clients across the globe to experience its benefits as a critical mobility solution. Vista's shared economy, asset-light, and subscription strategies are accelerating this trend."

According to Gulf Business, Flohr's Vista reported a 67% increase in global flight hours across all of its brands. VistaJet is said to have sold more than 8,000 new yearly subscription hours, up 67% from 2020 (it was also up 41% over 2019 levels). In addition, the group's on demand services recorded a year-on-year growth of 67% across all markets.

Forbes recently reported Vista was on pace to own more than 350 aircraft by year's end, including those from its purchase of Jet Edge and Air Hamburg, a major European operator, and two 16-seat Challenger 850s that will be used for XO's by-the-seat scheduled flights between New York and South Florida. (They join a fleet consisting of new Bombardier Global 7500s, Global 6000s and Challengers, and continued addition of used jets.)

Clients First

Flohr says he knew he had his work cut out for him — but he was up for the challenge. "What I needed to do was build a global infrastructure of identical airplanes on every continent in order to be a real competition to full aircraft ownership," he told Gulf Business.

Signing on for a membership with VistaJet is a win-win, he insists. "If you own your plane, you can take it anywhere. If you enter into a subscription contract with us, you can have access to our airplanes anywhere around the globe — identical to aircraft ownership, but at a much lower price point because we're using the assets more."

He says the feedback he's gotten is that CEOs and execs are looking to save time and stay connected. "In terms of the trends we're starting to see more often, by far the biggest change we've seen is connectivity and that's a reflection of the way the world is moving," Flohr told C-Suite Quarterly. "Everyone is more connected, whether they're in the air or on the ground. The more time our customers are spending in the air, the more they want to be keeping close to their business engagement, and their families too."

As Thomas Flohr told Business Airport International in 2019, he wants clients to associate VistaJet and XO with efficiency and ease. "We're continually flying the world's leading CEOs and boards across the world — what we provide them with is a time-saving way of travel that completely removes stress and hassle," he said.

It's a tailor-made experience. "If we have flyers that don't need to book a whole aircraft, then they can book a seat on an existing flight and share with others," Flohr said. "It means that flying is even more efficient and accessible for everyone involved."

What's Next

Flohr won't rest on his laurels. He told Gulf Business that Vista is upgrading the cabin experience across its entire fleet. And he's continuing to push the envelope with technology. "We just announced the rollout of the next generation of internet connectivity technology, a first in our industry," he told C-Suite Quarterly, noting he is "introducing the latest and most innovative technology, managing successful on-demand operators, operating a live marketplace," while seeking out the best growth opportunities around the world.

"VistaJet is the asset-light alternative to aircraft ownership, while XO is the digital marketplace for on-demand flying. Our goal," he said, "is to make flying privately simpler for everyone."

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