On Our Radar: Deals we are paying attention to for their impact on industry.
If you’ve wondered when you could book a private jet to any place in the world with an app, get your fingertips ready.
As did Dubai-based aviation company Vista Global Holding, which announced April 10 that it is acquiring JetSmarter, a technology company that lets travelers search for, book and pay for private flights from an app on a mobile phone.
Terms of the purchase will include an equity swap with investors of JetSmarter, including Clearlake Capital and Jefferies Financial Group, making them shareholders of Vista Global, alongside backers, including Rhone Capital, L.L.C.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based JetSmarter, founded in 2012, offers the corporate customer end-to-end service and booking experience through its app, which has been downloaded more than two million times, according to Vista Global. Customers use the app to instantly create flights on demand or book seats on chartered flights already set up by other travelers. These digital services will become available on Global’s other fleets, including VistaJet, a membership program offering mid- and long-range flights worldwide, once the systems are integrated. Vista Global’s XOJET, a fleet of smaller planes that it acquired from TPG Capital in 2018, has already partnered successfully with JetSmarter on its digital innovations.
According to Vista Global, some 150,000 customers travel annually across its companies, including its equipment leasing arm Vista Lease, which started this year.
In this arena, Vista Global competes directly with the Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, that facilitates air travel by selling shares in the private jets it owns. Another competitor is the Canada-based Jettly, a membership program that matches up its members with five to 10 flights per request and charges neither commission, service fees or markup. Business customers get three charters per month for $670 or $7,152 annually.
Steven Langman, managing director and co-founder of Rhône Capital, noted in a statement that Vista’s acquisition of JetSmarter is aimed at transforming “the nature of the business aviation sector and offer its growing customer base a fast and seamless access to its services through digital innovation.”
The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2019, but there could be roadblocks. SmarterJet has been sued a dozen times by consumers who claim it engaged in unfair business practices and deception, according to CNBC.com.
The company is aiming for another group of fliers, too -- four-legged ones. Earlier this month, VistaJet launched a global pet service, VistaPet. With the move, it could capture a portion of the estimated 30 million travelers who bring their pets on the road each year. VistaJet said it saw a 104% uptick in the number of animals flying last year. The creatures onboard are pampered with care kits, sleeping mats and balanced menus.
Michelle Lodge is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared in Time, Fortune, Barron's, the Miami Herald, the British Medical Journal as well as on CNBC.com.