To build upon a fledgling effort offering chartered flights to Cuba, a Long Beach charter aviation firm JFI Jets has acquired ACP Jets, a private aviation firm based in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Both companies are privately held and terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The combined company will be able to provide charter flights, aircraft management services, maintenance and other services from facilities in Southern California, the New York metro area and South Florida. The firm will operate its own charter fleet of 17 heavy and midsize jets.
JFI Jets Chief Executive Robert Seidel said in telephone interview Wednesday that the deal will enable the combined firm to have a presence in the United States’ three most important markets for private aviation.
JFI Jet’s acquisition of ACP Jets happened shortly after the former firm began offering charter flights to Cuba. Seidel said JFI Jets’ pursuit of a South Florida acquisition was a parallel strategy to executives’ decision to pursue the Cuban market after the Obama Administration announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with the still-Communist Cuba after more than five decades of mistrust and exile.
The president announced his plan last December.
“We decided that we wanted to be the first one in to offer commercial charter service,” Seidel said.
Although Seidel acknowledged he cannot declare with 100 percent certainty that another U.S. firm may have actually been the first to Cuba, he said JFI Jets’ first charter flight to the island nation landed Aug. 14. That was the same day Secretary of State John Kerry attended the flag-raising ceremony held outside the U.S. Embassy in Havana to commemorate the renewal of diplomacy between the United States and Cuba.
JFI Jets has made three trips to Cuba and has booked future departures, Seidel said.
Seidel could not reveal the identities of customers who obtained travel to Cuba, but said they included household names within the television news and music industries.
In terms of the future relationship between JFI Jets and ACP Jets, the Long Beach firm announced ACP Jets President Suran Wijayawardana will work as the combined firm’s new chief operating officer.
Seidel said JFI Jets will continue to use its current name for the time being, but the combined company may change take a new name as a result of the merger.