Thomas Flohr on why Vista Global is buying Air Hamburg


Vista Global is buying Air Hamburg, one of Europe’s largest charter operators. The acquisition is a win for Vista in its home market at a time when US operators are looking to buy European companies. Vista is not releasing any financial details.

“Air Hamburg has extremely impressive people, a solid operation and culture. It is run with precision and the same values as Vista,” Thomas Flohr, Vista’s founder and chairman, told Corporate Jet Investor. “It also has an identical floating-fleet business model.”

Air Hamburg has a floating fleet of 44 aircraft and 650 employees across its aircraft management and maintenance business. WINGX, the aviation intelligence company, says that on average each aircraft flew 881 hours in 2021.

Air Hamburg’s fleet is made up of Lineage 1000E, Falcon 7X, Legacy 600/650/650E, Legacy 500, Praetor 600, Cessna Citation XLS+, Phenom 300/300E and Cessna Citation CJ3 aircraft. Some of the fleet is owned by Simon Ebert, Air Hamburg’s owner, and leased to the operator. Others are owned by individuals looking for charter revenue. Ebert has been a key Embraer customer.

Data from WINGX shows that in 2021 Vista Group had a 7.1% share of branded jet charter departures and 10.7% share of all dedicated charter hours. Air Hamburg, which flew 18,800 client flights, had a 2.4% share by departures and 3.1% share of hours. Air Hamburg would have added 30% to Vista’s global flights.

This is Vista’s fourth acquisition. It acquired XOJET in 2018, online broker and membership company JetSmarter in 2019, Red Wing in 2020 and charter broker Apollo Jets in 2021. Apart from JetSmarter, which it acquired to build its technology platform, the rest have all traded under their own brands using Vista systems. This is also the plan with Air Hamburg.

“It is a world-class operator with great people,” says Flohr. “We want the team to stay and for Air Hamburg to keep growing.”

Air Hamburg’s founders Floris Helmers and Alexander Lipsky launched a flying school in 2001 called Flugschule Hamburg. They kept receiving charter requests and in 2005 launched Air Hamburg, initially focused on single engine aircraft. They also founded a café at the airport which grew into a private lounge, handling and catering business. Vista customers will now be able to use this lounge. The flight school is not included in the sale.

Vista is also acquiring Air Hamburg’s maintenance business. It did not have financial advisers.

“This is an incredible opportunity to remain at the top of the growing business aviation market. Over the last three years we have experienced strong growth, significantly increasing our market share across Europe and beyond,” said Helmers in a statement. “This cooperation between two of the largest operators means increasing our stability and securing further growth for our business, while allowing our team to showcase their strength and competencies to the most sophisticated clientele.”

The Air Hamburg/Vista deal follows on from Wheel Up’s bid for London Stock Exchange-listed charter broker Air Partner.

“Business aviation is a global market,” says Flohr. “We serve our customers where they need us. It is great to be going back to our roots, but we are also looking elsewhere.”