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Thomas Flohr, Founder and Chairman of Dubai-based Vista Global, is pioneering change in the aviation industry. The world’s first private aviation ecosystem integrates a unique portfolio of companies offering asset-light solutions covering all key aspects of business aviation and includes VistaJet, the first and only global business aviation company, and has seen an upswing in operation post-pandemic that looks sets to stay.

What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?

I usually fly about 250 days a year, but still try to keep a routine. Last year it was even more important to have a routine — especially as it is many years since I had been in the same place for an extended length of time. When at home, each morning I get up at the same time, eat breakfast and then walk a few steps to my office next to the house. I take a quick lunch break away from the office before working again until returning in the evening for a workout.

Vista Jet aviation

What is your approach to business and building a work culture?

At Vista we have a start-up mentality, but also a global mentality. With our structure, everyone is responsible for driving success, and our colleagues are fundamental to our business — we have always worked as one combined team and have an internal trust across teams which has proven itself even more over the last year. I had the initial vision, however, as a collective, we have made Vista what it is today.

What was the catalyst for launching VistaJet and what have been the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

Prior to VistaJet, I was in asset finance and flying hundreds of hours each year. The only way to be in multiple meetings in multiple countries in one day was to fly private. However, I was surprised by the amount of time that business jets would sit idle — the average utilization of a business jet is 250 hours per year, yet commercial planes are used around 4,000 hours a year — and the lack of consistency from one to another which meant that as a customer I didn’t know what would be waiting for me on the tarmac. I saw very early on when I entered this industry that it was extremely inefficient and backward-looking. When I see waste, I become ambitious — if something doesn’t make sense, it’s a natural inclination to challenge it.

So, I saw an opportunity to offer an alternative. I founded VistaJet in 2004, introducing a new way to fly — access to an entire worldwide and branded fleet, paying only for the hours flown with guaranteed availability and no asset risk.

Then, in 2018 I formed Vista Global Holding to consolidate the fragmented industry and offer all clients the full range of business services on a global scale, through our VistaJet and XO brands, and now also Apollo and Red Wing Aviation. Over the last 17 years, we have transformed the company from a European start-up operating two aircraft into a leading global air mobility group with over 2,000 experts and over 170 jets covering and connecting every continent.

“When I see waste, I become ambitious – if something doesn’t make sense, it’s a natural inclination to challenge it.” 

How do you approach challenges?

With every challenge comes opportunity. We are not afraid of change. We always look at what we can influence, identifying possibilities and searching for the solution.

To date, we have weathered many global and regional economic storms and emerged stronger. From launching a company at the end of the .com bubble crisis to navigating Ebola, the financial crash, the EU debt crisis, Arab Spring, crash of the oil price combined with the Ruble depreciation, Brexit and the annexation of Crimea, Vista has proven resilient. The last year hasn’t been any different. Our reason for resilience is that we operate in the right aircraft class, have the right business model being asset-light, and have the global infrastructure and contacts that have taken 17 years to build.

How do you think last year affected the growth in the private aviation industry?

The unprecedented events have redefined the global aviation landscape and resulted in a significant shift in perception towards private travel. It is a pivotal and exciting time in our sector and we are extremely aware of the critical, growing role private aviation will play as part of the global economy for years to come.

Since commercial airlines have been limiting service to certain areas and at times re-treating fully from some of their operating regions, there is continued reliance on private travel as health and safety remain top-of-mind. One of the keys draws for new users in the current climate, is the small number of touchpoints when flying private — 20 as opposed to 700 when flying commercial.

Safety and travel have become one in the same, and the private aviation industry experienced a sharp rise in first-time fliers over the past year, including a 29% increase in new Members at VistaJet and 3x at XO — which is still a fraction of the potential market of private jet fliers, with a 90% opportunity as only 10% of those who can fly private do.

Vista as a business and concept has demonstrated its robust nature through its flexibility, global infrastructure and floating fleet which can move to where the demand is, and has continued operations throughout the pandemic without retreating from any mar-kets.

Whenever you see a business jet in a location, you know that business is being done. The explosion in demand has continued into 2021 with increasing requests from both corporates and private individuals wanting to travel safely and without delays across the globe.

Thomas Flor

 Did you have any mentors in the early days and how did this help navigate the right path?

Unfortunately, no – it was rather the absence of a mentor that made me think and work harder.

Do you see any trends in clients from specific markets in terms of requests?

We see continued demand across the globe — particularly as countries continue to open ahead of the summer months.

The Middle East specifically is consistently one of VistaJet’s leading markets, with the most popular flight routes being to Russia, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and the UK, with inter-Middle East flying from the UAE to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also key routes.

While there has been some interruption to and from certain destinations in recent months, the UAE remains particularly active, accounting for 34% of the total flights in the market. In fact, we’ve recently seen Dubai become VistaJet’s number one hub in the world for the first time, which can be attributed primarily to the Emirate being able to stay open for business continually since the summer.

We have also seen a surge of 49% in corporate interest globally, with the US driving this influx, as teams need to get to multiple locations around the world to ensure business continuity.

Your content is tailored to the individual clients on-board – how do you approach this accurately?

Our clients are at the center of everything we do, and their needs dictate the services and new travel solutions we offer so they are fully supported and feel at home wherever they are. We understand that every passenger is different, and that their needs on each flight may be different, so we are mindful of that for each and every time, and for each and every passenger.

We have dedicated teams who look after every request and our Cabin Hostesses at VistaJet are trained by the British Butler Institute, Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and Norland College — so if you are traveling with little ones, pets, would like a Michelin-starred dining or wine tasting experience, or need the fastest WiFi available in the industry for your business meetings in the air, we provide the highest level of service on every flight.

Our support doesn’t end there — we recently created VistaJet’s Private World, a global travel program that offers Members rare and unfettered access to VistaJet’s preferred partners, from the best suites in the most in-demand hotels and resorts, to destinations that are out of the ordinary to ensure total privacy, such as estates, islands and yachts.

We always say yes, whenever it is safe to do so — even if it might take days to fine tune a flight, we are happy to make our clients’ life simple.

Where do you see the industry in terms of advancement in 5 years?

People are seeing the true value of business aviation — more corporate and private individuals are choosing the benefits of flying private and I believe this is going to continue into the year ahead.

Mobility is a key trend for luxury — with global infrastructure, flexibility and guaranteed expertise. Executives want to be as efficient as possible and as mobile as possible. Its very technology-driven. It’s about having information at your fingertips and booking immediately — you book right there online. They also want to know what’s out there, where the best restaurants are in every location. It’s all about bespoke, high-touch experiences. This is where I believe this industry is going.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the current market?

Agility and adaptability are key. Those businesses that have been nimble, particularly over this past year, are the ones that are going to succeed.

Continuing to focus on what clients want is also fundamental — our business is about making flying simple and whatever that means today, we will adapt and stick to our promise.

This is The Summer Escape Issue – where do you love to escape to?

I hope I will get a few days off on some small Greek islands with just some local restaurants and beautiful turquoise waters.

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