French air taxi operator Wijet is acquiring fellow Mustang operator Blink in the UK to create the world's largest VLJ air taxi company, with an enterprise value of €45m. The transaction means that the fleets of the two companies will be combined into a 15-strong Mustang roster, located across western Europe.
Blink will join Wijet on the real-time booking platform OpenJet, allowing for flight optimisation and more competitive pricing. Wijet Group has been established as a holding company for Blink UK and Wijet France, and will have two joint CEOs in Corentin Denoeud and Cameron Ogden, former owners of Wijet and Blink respectively. The company is reporting combined revenues of €18m in 2016 and is forecasting €28m in 2017 with 11,000 flights and 16,000 passengers.
Says Denoeud: “This transaction sends a clear message to the air taxi industry. Cameron and I will be working closely together to integrate the two companies and give our enlarged customer base the best experience possible.
“A new innovative offer based on real-time pricing will soon allow our customers to completely change their perception of business aviation.”
Since forming in 2008 and 2009 respectively, Blink and Wijet have conducted operations in London (Blackbushe), Paris and Genoa. Blink's established maintenance and operations capability will remain in the UK and Italy while Wijet will continue to service its client base and perform key head office functions from Paris. Last year Blink took over the Italian company Myjet, which also had a Mustang-only fleet.
Ogden tells EBAN that he has considered consolidating for some time: “I think it is something that the industry is demanding, both in terms of how the regulatory side of things is moving and the fact that as an industry it has not been growing as fast as people have wanted.
“We have had a lot of small players fragmented across the market. The thing about this particular part of the industry is that we have all been very like-minded; we have all chosen the same aircraft and we have all had the same business models in terms of what we think is going to be the winner in the future of private aviation, taking a low-cost airline approach.”
For many clients, their first taste of business aviation comes in the form of a VLJ, and this is a trend that Wijet Group is looking to take advantage of. “The other side of it is that over the last 10 years people have educated themselves on the use of private jets and, at the end of the day, value for money is what they are looking for,” explains Ogden. “The idea of flying on an oversized Citation XLS is not necessarily required when you are flying between London and Geneva. We have been a massive beneficiary of overpriced charter.
“When we look at it, the average passenger load over Europe is only two passengers at any given time, and sector times are on average an hour and 20 minutes. This is why the VLJ sector is so popular and still growing.”