The top executive of a Southern California private charter airline says the Golden State’s hostile business environment propelled his company’s decision to relocate to Texas.
“Not being viewed as an enemy, but being viewed as an asset is so refreshing,” said Alex Wilcox, Chief Executive Officer of JetSuite Inc., who, on Thursday, spoke to the Dallas Business Journal. He described the air carrier’s decision to move to North Texas this summer as a “welcome change.”
He even shared a glaring example of one difference between California and business-friendly Texas. “I tried to start flying out of Santa Monica, California. And they sued me because I was trying to bring a service to the city,” said Wilcox. “When I got to Dallas, literally, people in City Hall were like, ‘How can we help you?’”
The CEO said the company contemplated exiting California “for a couple of years.” JetSuite intends to make the Dallas-Fort Worth area its new home, although officials have not announced a location for their headquarters. Wilcox anticipates 60 employees will move with top brass to the Lone Star State and they will fill 180-200 jobs with Texans. The company’s chief executive said they will recruit qualified individuals for “behind-the-scenes” operational functions, dispatchers, maintenance controllers, “and the people who actually make airlines move.”
He quipped: “There are probably more people in aviation in Dallas than there are people in Newport Beach, in total.”
Previously, Wilcox told Bloomberg other selling points Texas offered included lower costs and a larger aviation infrastructure which exists because of the Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and Fort Worth-based American Airlines.
The boutique charter airline allows travelers to rent a private, small jet. Currently, their daily flights only cover select California cities and Las Vegas, Nevada. JetSuite intends to expand its destinations. The CEO also has high hopes for the other side of their business, JetSuiteX, where individuals can purchase a seat on one of their charter flights to avoid the hassle of larger airports. One-way ticket fares start at $129.
The company plans to grow its consumer reach with a fleet of regional small jets to 100. Wilcox told the Business Journal that JetSuite revenues range between $55 million and $60 million while JetSuiteX accounts for $50 million in earnings.
“In six years I want to take JetSuiteX to a $1 billion in top line revenue,” said Wilcox. He also believes over time JetSuite Inc. will “probably triple or quadruple.”
In 2009, Wilcox co-founded the Irvine, California, based business. Previously, he was a founding executive of JetBlue Airways. In 2016, JetSuite sold an expanded stake of the company to JetBlue, which allowed the private airliner to beef up JetSuiteX.
This week, JetSuite announced it sold a minor stake to Qatar Airways. Federal law limits foreign investments in a U.S. air carrier to 25 percent, noted Bloomberg. The size of this investment has not yet been disclosed, however, it follows the Qatari airline’s failed attempt to acquire 10 percent of American Airlines.
JetSuite’s website says the company is certified by the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). Recognized independent safety auditors ARG/US ranked them #1 in light jet utilization. They also rated them with highest safety rating achievable in civil aviation.
The airline’s move to Texas highlights the continued exodus of companies from the business-unfriendly California. From 2008 to 2015, an estimated 9,000 companies left California, of which Texas was the top beneficiary of the relocations, During those seven years, California corporations accounted for 15 percent of companies that moved their headquarters or expanded operations into pro-business Texas. In many instances, the state incentivized out-of-state companies to expand into the state with the goal of creating more jobs and economic growth within Texas through the Texas Enterprise Fund.
Likewise, Californians comprise the largest number of the state’s transplants.
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