Vista buying Jet Edge, takes 100 aircraft from charter market
Vista Global has agreed to buy Jet Edge. The acquisition will add 100 owned and managed aircraft to Vista Global’s fleet. Bill Papariella, CEO and co-founder, Jet Edge, will become chief business officer of Vista.
Jet Edge has around 100 aircraft – the world’s largest dedicated Gulfstream and Bombardier Challenger charter fleets. Some 40 of these are owned with the rest managed for owners. When completed, the acquisition will bring Vista Global’s owned and managed fleet to 340 aircraft.
“There is so much demand in the US for people who want to join Vista’s programmes and we do not believe in saying no to people who want to fly with us like some companies do,” Thomas Flohr, founder and chair, of Vista Global told Corporate Jet Investor in his first interview on the deal. “This acquisition lets us meet that demand.”
This is Vista’s fourth operator acquisition. It acquired XOJET in 2018, Citation Jet operator Red Wing in 2020, and agreed to buy European operator Air Hamburg in February 2022. All of these operators have continued to trade under their own brands. Jet Edge, however, may be absorbed into Vista. “Jet Edge has a similar floating fleet model to us including a large fleet of Challengers,” says Flohr. “They have also invested in the aircraft, if you change the carpet you have an interior identical to a VistaJet aircraft. It is a very similar business model to Vista.”
Jet Edge also launched a similar membership programme for direct customers last year. Jet Edge, however, built its fleet using managed and pre-owned aircraft rather than buying new from manufacturers.
The two companies have very different backgrounds – Vista Global is European, Jet Edge is very much from Los Angeles – but both share a laser focus on selling charter. “The cultures are very similar. Bill is a truly gifted entrepreneur who has built a great business and we want him and his team to stay with us,” says Flohr. “I want Bill next to me.”
Papariella, a former film producer who also worked at Sentient Jet and Marquis Jet, launched Jet Edge in 2011. In 2019 he raised $60m in private equity from Solace Capital and used this to grow quickly – including launching Jet Edge Partners, an in-house aircraft brokerage led by Kevin White. It used some of this cash to buy Ohio operator Jet Select in January 2020. Jet Select had the largest floating fleet of Bombardier Challenger aircraft.
At the same time Jet Edge also grew fast organically. Despite few aircraft for sale, White consistently found Gulfstream and Bombardier Challenger aircraft to add to the fleet – both owned and managed. These were used to fill demand created by Jonah Adler, Jet Edge’s chief commercial officer, who built strong relationships with brokers and launched direct programmes, and the increased demand for charter generally.
KKR saw this growth and lent the operator $150m in June 2021 – which Jet Edge used to buy more aircraft. In September 2021 it then invested $40m in equity and bought a further $75 million stake in January 2022. Vista Global is buying out all of Jet Edge’s investors.
Vista Group will acquire Jet Edge’s maintenance facilities and lounges at Van Nuys and Teterboro Airport. XOJET Aviation will acquire a majority stake of the Part 135 certificates of Jet Select and Western Air Charter (the Jet Edge Air Operator Certificate) to meet US foreign ownership rules.
Vista is also hoping to close the Air Hamburg before the end of June. Flohr says that Russian customers accounted for less than 3% of Vista Global’s customers in 2021 and that they can easily replace this demand.
The acquisition of Jet Edge will be felt across the US charter market. The operator had strong relationships with brokers who will no longer have as much access to the fleet. Vista is effectively removing 100 aircraft from the US charter fleet which is already struggling to meet demand.
“We have stayed true to our model,” says Flohr. “If people want to fly on demand they can go to our XO but we also want to be able to serve people who want guaranteed availability and price. Jet Edge allows us to add aircraft for customers on our programmes. We are also continuing to look at other opportunities for acquisitions.”