Mumbai: A fortnight after placing the world’s biggest business aircraft order of $7.8 billion with Bombardier Inc., Switzerland-based luxury business air charter operator VistaJet Holding SA on Monday announced its entry into India to sell flying hours to rich individuals, entrepreneurs and large companies, shrugging off the effects of a slowing economy.
Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet, said India is a “super-important market” for the company alongside the likes of China, Kazakhstan and West Asia.
“It makes no sense for Indian businessmen to buy expensive private planes if they are not flying frequently,” he said in an interview. “We offer them flexible flying hours. We guarantee planes available in 24 hours to connect to any long-haul destination.”
Flohr said no VistaJet planes will be based in India and that his firm is not looking at partnering with Indian companies.
“Our business model is not having a base in India. We fly in and fly out in 24 hours. We have a sales team here to coordinate the business,” Flohr said.
On 27 November, Montreal-based Bombardier announced the largest business aircraft order in its history. As part of this, VistaJet signed a deal for up to 142 global business jets, which includes firm orders for 56 and options for a further 86 planes.
If all the options are exercised, the deal would be worth at least $7.8 billion at the 2012 US list price. The value of the firm order is approximately $3.1 billion.
The Indian market was growing at 5.5% while the European markets were not growing at all, said Nilesh Pattanayak, Bombardier South Asia’s managing director (business jets).
“India has only 100 business jets while the US has more than 4,000,” he said. “Fundamentals of India as a market was always good. Indeed, there was some slowdown in certain segments. But we do business not taking quarterly performance, but for 10 years perspective.”
Pattanayak was referring to business jet planes, excluding helicopters and piston-engined planes.
The industry could see new aircraft sales for general aviation—that includes business jets, helicopters, turboprops and piston-engined planes—of up to $12 billion over the next decade, by which time the general aviation fleet is expected to reach 2,000 aircraft, up from 680 now, according to a consultancy firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, or Capa, report released last year.
The report estimated that the direct and indirect economic contribution of general aviation could be close to $4 billion per annum by 2020.
In November, V.P. Agarwal, chairman of state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), said the country will require 200 airports by 2020 for general aviation.
India now has 454 operational and non-operational airports/airstrips. AAI operates 125 of them—14 international airports, 80 domestic airports, 12 custom airports and 19 other civil enclaves.
VistaJet, set up in 2004, is one of the world’s fastest growing private aviation firms with a fleet of Bombardier aircraft based across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and West Africa.
The aircraft order is a continuation of the company’s strategic decision to fast-track the growth of the fleet, focusing on wide-cabin, long-range aircraft to provide non-stop, point-to-point global coverage, VistaJet said in a statement.
The new aircraft will directly service growth markets (including Russia, China, all of the Middle East and Africa), connecting them to the rest of the globe, as well as serving the US east and west coasts for intercontinental travel needs, it said.
“We are expecting 100 to 200 Indian individuals to undertake flying 300-400 hours per year,” Flohr said.
He added that his company carried 25,000 passengers on 10,000 single international flights in 2012, and it is focusing on emerging markets.