Regional Airline JetSuiteX Expands East, Backed By Qatar Investment

Apr 12, 2018

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California charter airline JetSuite just announced an aggressive expansion for its sister company, JetSuiteX. The growth plan involves several major changes, including relocating from Southern California to Texas this summer, as well as eventually growing the airline’s fleet from its current tally of five, up to around 100 Embraers by 2023, according to CEO Alex Wilcox. 

JetSuiteX began offering scheduled service on 30-seat Embraer 135 regional jets in April 2016. The airline allows passengers to bypass larger airports and congested terminals by utilizing private air terminals in California and Las Vegas, with one-way fares that begin at $129.

News of the expansion comes just a couple of days after Qatar Airways acquired a minority stake in the regional airline and its sister company, JetSuiteX. JetBlue, which became a minor JetSuite investor in 2016, also increased its investment stake in the company, although neither airline disclosed the details regarding the amount of their investment. Several other private investors are also involved in the deal.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in such unique business as JetSuite and JetSuiteX,” said Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker. “We believe that JetSuite and JetSuiteX deliver a truly class-leading service to the U.S. market with a huge potential for development, and we are very excited to invest in this opportunity alongside JetBlue and the other investors.”

JetSuite and JetSuiteX are the brainchild of Wilcox, an early JetBlue employee. CEO Tony Hsieh is also a JetSuite director. Wilcox said that, while the JetSuiteX is still exploring its options for eastward expansion, Qatar’s investment will be enough to fund upcoming growth without seeking additional funds.

“JetSuite’s innovative JetSuiteX service and customer-focused approach aligns perfectly with our values at JetBlue, which is why we are so pleased that our partners at Qatar Airways are joining us in supporting this venture,” Wilcox said. “We look forward to seeing JetSuite further grow on the West Coast and beyond to bring additional air travel choices to customers in underserved markets.”

This isn’t Qatar’s first investment in other airlines. The Doha-based carrier has invested in Meridiana and Cathay, among others, and also has its sights set on America. Prior to the JetSuiteX deal, Qatar had attempted to break into the US market by wooing American Airlines for some time, hoping to acquire an unsolicited equity stake in the world’s largest carrier. But American rebuffed the Middle East airline’s advances amidst tense allegations of imbalanced government subsidies and a bitter dispute over the Open Skies agreement, with American going so far as to terminate its codeshare flights with both Qatar and Etihad.

In response, Qatar terminated its negotiations with American, instead announcing its investment in JetSuite this week at leading industry conference Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX). JetSuite’s planned relocation to Dallas-Fort Worth this summer will put the airline squarely in American Airlines territory because the carrier is headquartered in Fort Worth. According to Wilcox, Texas offers lower costs and a larger aviation infrastructure, thanks to the local presence of both American as well as Southwest Airlines.

Featured image courtesy of JetSuiteX.

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