Thomas Flohr, founder and owner of VistaJet and a 42m Baglietto, Nina J, on value, service and why he wants to approach a new build project in a different way.“If I were a large shipyard, what I would do for my fleet of 50 or 100 yachts is have a service point in each of the main yachting locations,” Thomas Flohr says when he spoke with TheSuperyachtOwner.com in New York recently. “I would man them with certified engineers on my payroll so that when each individual yacht is coming through, they have access to the drawings and specifications for that vessel, and know everything about it already. A bit like health records in that they are not shared across international borders today, there is a lack of this in yachting. It’s backwards.”
Flohr, a self-made businessman, started VistaJet in 2004 and has grown it over the last decade to be the largest fleet of private jets outside North America. VistaJet has just placed an order for 58 Global long-range Bombardier jets, the biggest deal in private business aviation history. The company, already offering the largest single service in private aviation, has recently received a licence to fly within Russia and is on the cusp of finalising an agreement that will see it enter into China.
“I think that just because people are supplying a service to yachts, they feel they can charge a lot more. I don’t usually charter but last New Year’s Eve I went on a last-minute 60m yacht charter for seven days to the Maldives. I paid the APA and they went out and spent my money like crazy,” he says. “The crew bought 500 Nespresso pods for six guests for the week, right there in the Maldives. When I asked why they had bought so many, they said the previous charterer drank a lot of coffee. My thoughts are that, even though I owned those pods, after seven days of charter I’m not going to take home the vast majority of what is left in a suitcase. You leave them on board and they resell them again.
“I think these are the elements – like the mark-ups from agencies – where the yachting industry needs to grow up, and these are the areas where owners get frustrated. They have a wonderful time on their two-week vacations but the bills are too shocking. If you come from nothing like me, you look at bills. I cannot live with the fact that on my week-long charter someone just bought 500 Nespresso pods for 500 euros and I end up leaving 470 behind. I would rather give that money to local children who need schoolbooks. I think owners don’t like financial wastage and people need to ask if they would act that way in their normal life.”
Although he spends plenty of time on Nina J, Flohr is considering future superyacht projects. “My next yacht project is going to be technologically centred on consumption because you have to make a decision on whether you can justify your choices,” he says. “The yacht I own is a high-speed yacht and it consumes way too much; do you need to go at that speed? Sometimes it is very comfortable but it’s not really needed, and the engine manufacturers are the ones driving that. But the investment that needs to go into building a new engine is gigantic. So the technological steps are only every eight to 10 years for a new concept. I am looking at diesel-electric concepts at the moment.”
Read the full interview with Thomas Flohr in Issue 5 of the The Superyacht Owner.
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