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DUBAI (Reuters) - Out-of-favour corporate jet ownership is fuelling growing demand for flights offered by business aircraft operator VistaJet, the founder and chairman of the Malta-based firm said.
"The purchase of a business jet is not necessarily seen favourably by the boards or by the shareholders," Thomas Flohr told Reuters during a visit to Dubai on Tuesday.
However, executives still want the flexibility to "travel to more destinations in the shortest period of time," he added.
VistaJet will carry 50,000 passengers and operate 20,000 flights this year, which Flohr said represents growth of between 20 and 25 percent. In the U.S. and the Middle East and Asia regions growth is as high as 50 percent, he said.
And it expects to increase annual aircraft usage by 50 per cent to 1,200 hours by 2019, more than three times today's industry average, Flohr said.
This year, average business jet usage is around 340 hours, according to according to New York-based aviation research firm JetNet, while VistaJet, which operates a fleet of 72 Bombardier (BBDb.TO) aircraft, is on track to reach 800 hours.
VistaJet, which launched in 2004 and originally registered in Switzerland, charges customers on average between $11,000 and $16,000 per flight hour.
It competes with NetJets BRKNT.UL, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), who pioneered the "fractional" ownership model in the U.S. in the 1980s, where customers buy a share of a plane in return for guaranteed access for a fixed number of hours or days in a year.
Flohr, a former asset finance executive, said VistaJet is making money, but declined to comment on revenue or profit.
VistaJet's fleet is made up of Bombardier Global 5000s and Challenger 350s, with ten of its jets based in the U.S. and operated and managed by General Dynamics (GD.N) unit Jet Aviation. A single jet in China is managed and operated by Apex Air.
Two new planes will be added this year and a third in 2017, fulfilling a firm order for 75 Bombardier jets, Flohr said, adding that VistaJet is unlikely to need new aircraft until 2020.
Editing by Alexander Smith