New York, USA – In a stunning turn of events, AeroVanti, the ambitious private aviation start-up that vowed to revolutionize the industry with affordable flights, now finds itself embroiled in a series of legal battles. Facing at least four lawsuits from disgruntled customers, the company’s once-promising trajectory has been overshadowed by allegations of mismanagement and potential fraud. With lawyers suggesting the operation bears the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme, the future of AeroVanti hangs in the balance.
Since its inception in 2021, AeroVanti had positioned itself as a disruptor in the private aviation sector, offering a pay-as-you-go membership model that promised significantly lower prices than its competitors. Flights on their turboprop aircraft were priced at under $2,000 per hour, representing a 50% reduction compared to existing programs. Riding a wave of success, the company proudly declared a staggering 400% growth within just over a year, claiming to have transformed the private aviation landscape with unparalleled services at a fraction of the cost.
However, the recent flurry of lawsuits paints a far bleaker picture for AeroVanti. The change in the company’s strategy over time is notable, with founder and former CEO, Patrick Britton-Harr, initially adopting a lean approach by outsourcing flight operations and member support to an experienced charter operator. Yet, a bitter fallout with the original operator soon followed, accompanied by complaints of last-minute flight cancellations. Britton-Harr attributed these issues to the growing pains of a start-up and the industry-wide surge in demand for private jets. A survey conducted among subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons revealed that 44% had experienced delays, cancellations, or service shortcomings from their providers, further highlighting the industry-wide challenges.
However, as demand in the private aviation sector subsided and competitors managed to improve their reliability, AeroVanti’s woes escalated. The four lawsuits filed within the past six weeks shed light on a troubling sequence of events. The introduction of a new membership tier called “Top Gun” required members to contribute substantial sums, ranging from $75,000 to $150,000. The funds were purportedly intended for the expansion of AeroVanti’s fleet, with participants promised 100 hours of flights at a reduced rate of $1,500 per hour. Shockingly, the lawsuits allege that the aircraft were never purchased but instead leased, and some were even repossessed. The most recent lawsuit in Maryland accuses AeroVanti executives of deceitfully obtaining funds from escrow accounts set up to protect the members.
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Disturbingly, the lawsuits claim that members’ funds were diverted to finance unrelated activities, including the establishment of a yacht club and sponsorships with prominent sports teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Cubs, and U.S. Sailing. One lawsuit originating from Oklahoma recounts how a group of members paid $300,000 only to be informed later that AeroVanti did not operate flights west of Texas, contrary to the company’s website claims. Despite numerous promises of nationwide coverage, the disappointed customers were denied a refund.
Ryan C. Wagner of WLG Firm, who filed the initial lawsuits in May, made a chilling statement, labeling the situation as indicative of a Ponzi scheme. According to him, the evidence and documentation uncovered thus far support the notion that AeroVanti’s Top Gun Membership was a ruse designed to misappropriate funds.
Notable to mention is AeroVanti’s successful fundraising effort last year, which secured a significant investment of $9.75 million USD. At the time, founder and former CEO Patrick Britton-Harr expressed his excitement, stating that the influx of funds would facilitate the company’s ambitious plans to expand its fleet with additional Embraer Very Light Jets (VLJs) and even Boeing 767 aircraft for sports team charters.
Recent revelations have exposed even more troubling aspects of AeroVanti’s operations. Multiple sources, including a consultant, have confirmed that the company’s entire fleet was grounded due to maintenance issues and repossessions. Despite representatives assuring potential customers of a diverse fleet, it appears that only a couple of aircraft were available for flights at any given time. Furthermore, AeroVanti reportedly missed at least one payroll period in June, further fueling concerns about the company’s financial stability.
Adding to the mounting challenges, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken an interest in AeroVanti. The regulatory body sent letters to several customers, requesting detailed flight information. It has come to light that AeroVanti had been operating under 91F rules, which differ from the typical Part 135 rules governing jet cards and membership flights. The FAA’s inquiry raises questions about the company’s compliance with industry regulations and adds to the growing list of issues faced by AeroVanti.
Despite the mounting legal troubles and a deteriorating reputation, Patrick Britton-Harr, the founder and former CEO, has remained relatively silent. Requests for comment have gone unanswered, leaving customers and industry observers searching for answers. In a previous statement, Britton-Harr defended AeroVanti’s commitment to safety and emphasized that the company was not an on-demand charter service. He also pointed out that availability was not guaranteed—a point that has drawn criticism from members who had their flights abruptly canceled, even after booking well in advance.
Following the filing of the first two lawsuits in May, Britton-Harr attempted to assuage members’ concerns by promising the imminent arrival of 18 additional aircraft. However, less than two weeks later, the company found itself unable to meet payroll obligations. In a recent interview with the Business Observer, Britton-Harr vehemently denied the claim that AeroVanti couldn’t make payroll, dismissing it as “totally false.” However, an email sent to employees on June 6, with Britton-Harr copied, contradicts his denial. The email, titled “Paychecks,” acknowledged the need for capital infusion to ensure the company’s continued success.
As AeroVanti’s legal battles continue to unfold, it remains to be seen whether the company can weather the storm and restore its tarnished reputation. The allegations of mismanagement, potential fraud, and the diversion of funds have cast a dark shadow over a start-up that once promised to revolutionize private aviation. Customers who placed their trust and financial resources in AeroVanti are left grappling with canceled flights, unanswered questions, and the uncertainty of potential financial losses. The outcome of these lawsuits will likely have far-reaching implications for both the company and the private aviation industry as a whole.