Vista acquires Jet Edge services as private flying boom fuels M&A

March 31 (Reuters) - Privately-held Vista Global Holding said on Thursday it would acquire the private aviation services platform of U.S. charter operator Jet Edge, in the latest consolidation of the booming market for flying privately.

The deal for an undisclosed amount is Dubai-based Vista's seventh acquisition since 2018, as business jet services from hangars to aircraft access draw interest from private equity funds and larger industry players.

Jet Edge has previously received financial backing from KKR & Co Inc. Private equity powerhouse KKR separately nabbed business aviation services network Atlantic Aviation for $4.5 billion in 2021.

Earlier this month, Signature Aviation said it reached a deal for privately-held TAC Air's U.S. network of 16 fixed base operator (FBO) locations, which provide services for private planes, and a hangar. Signature, the world's largest FBO network, was acquired last year by three private equity firms.

Following its latest two deals, including Jet Edge, Vista would own or manage around 350 aircraft, said Ian Moore, chief commercial officer of the private flight services company.

Demand for flying privately to avoid commercial travel during COVID-19 has driven down supply of preowned business jets to historic lows, generating lengthy backlogs for luxury planemakers like General Dynamics Corp's Gulfstream and Bombardier Inc.

That's creating a shortage of available luxury aircraft, leading to cancellations and delays in private aviation, and driving companies like Vista to seek out access to jets.

"That's really the holy grail of the moment, the fleet," Moore said in an interview. "The customers aren't difficult to find at this point in time. Making sure you have aircraft to service those customers in the best way possible, that's the challenge people are facing today."

Business jets now account for about 25% of all U.S. fixed-wing aircraft flight activity, roughly doubling in share from before the pandemic, according to European data research and consulting company WINGX. (Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal Editing by Mark Potter)