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July 28, 2014

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Plans move forward for luxury, high-roller charter airline

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Steve Marcus

The Las Vegas Strip.

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Oscar Peters.

A British-born international banker has pledged as much as $80 million for the launch of a Las Vegas-based luxury global charter airline to serve high-rollers on direct flights from China, Russia, South America and the Middle East. Additional funding is promised from his Saudi Arabian bank investors as the airline progresses from its September startup.

Financier Oscar Peters told me in an exclusive interview: “This is now the first time we wish to talk about our plans as we will obtain our necessary certifications in August. Our FAA/DOT license will cover our first six jumbo jets and a smaller fleet of individual jets from a planned New York hub.

“It’s an international airline, far more global in reach than domestic. Asian and Russian casinos are reaping far more than Las Vegas casinos. There is far more money internationally than in the U.S. currently. But wherever you go, Las Vegas is still the Gaming and Entertainment Capital of the World, and players from Dubai, South America, Mexico, China and Brazil aren’t afraid to spend — and they want to do it in Las Vegas.

“Until now, though, there have been no direct luxury flights to pull in a lot of those people. You have all the low-cost airlines operating out of Las Vegas, and, frankly, nothing in the middle and its luxury brands that work well. Nothing exists, so it makes great sense, and there truly is a lot of new potential as Las Vegas bounces back.”

Oscar, who is relocating from his Monaco headquarters to L.A. and has already purchased a Las Vegas estate, says he’ll launch the tentatively titled Las Vegas Airways right on the Strip in the form of a 747 shell to be used as a promotional nightclub ultra lounge until it’s transformed into the terminal point.

“I want it branded as another Las Vegas icon and give people the opportunity to taste the brand even before the flights commence,” he added. “We have preliminary designs for our first planes, and we want passengers to be in Las Vegas from the moment they step inside the flight wherever it is in the world.

The initial layouts by Edese Doret Industrial Design in New York feature 10 living compartments and 200 premium seats, lounge areas, a living plant wall, table dining and luxury bathroom facilities. Oscar’s studies have shown that family, friends and executive entourages who work for high-level VIPs flying in the lavish quarters would use the premium seats. The company has a 20-year history of designing private plane and luxury yacht interiors.

“We need to bring back the glamour that was originally built into Las Vegas, and we think we can help revitalize Las Vegas because that classic Hollywood appeal has gone missing,” said Oscar. “This will not even be an average first-class concept — above that. Think seven star and chic beyond words.”

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Andrew Cowen.

Oscar, 54, is the owner and major shareholder of International Boutique Investment Bank in Monte Carlo and EXIM Development Bank at the Offshore Trade Free Zone in Cameroon. He says his investor clients from the Middle East including members of the Saudi royal family, Asia and Europe will be part of the investor group for the proposed airline.

He also is director of the ADHD children’s charity organization ChildsMiracleMind.org and SchoolofNow.org. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the first school in New Mexico are set for September, and he promises one in Las Vegas as his business develops here.

“I have been to Las Vegas a hundred times with colleagues and clients in the past, but this will be our first venture there,” he said. “We like the current rebuilding business climate of Las Vegas. There’s a lot of new potential with Las Vegas, and we want to back into it in a big way. We have a very wide portfolio of business ventures, but this will be our first airline venture.”

CEO partner Sean Smith and he have already signed an impressive group of veteran airline executives to run the business. Sean, a member of the 1990 U.S. boxing team, told me: “ We plan to be very steady and solid in our approach to development as we are in no need of capital, nor are we in a rush to run forward with blinders. We expect that planes will be in the air and landing in Las Vegas in line with some of the other major projects on the Strip in about 12 months.”

When the official press announcements are made in September, the partners will announce the full executive lineup in tandem with the worldwide Mango Aviation Group headquartered in London. Managing partner Andrew Cowen and Mango work with many air transport companies providing a range of services from strategic development and business design to implementation and management. The company has most recently been involved with Virgin Blue and Emirates, but have agreements with more than a dozen air carriers.

The company plans to name as its startup president Dr. John Wensveen, co-founder of Maxjet Airlines, an all first-class London-to-Las Vegas charter carrier. The president and CEO of Airline Visions, John also was dean, School of Aviation, at Dowling College in New York, where he was chief academic and administrative officer for the 120-acre Brookhaven Airport campus and was professor of airline management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is considered one of the aviation industry’s leading experts on airline operations specializing in startups.

The expected COO to be named will be Bryan Johnston, former CEO the past nine years of Aviation World Services. Prior to that, he was director of operations for Private Jet Airlines in Atlanta and airline operations manager, Canada 3000, at one time the largest charter airline in the world.

Sean commented: “We know this has been tried before, and we have studied every failure to the point of lunacy. However, our key is that we are doing it on a size and scale and focus fitting to the demand, marketplace and assets of the city, which I believe are the best they have been in 30 years. We have a seasoned international airline team, a very robust, connected and patient investor and developed a planned approach with private and public customers to give Las Vegas its own successful luxury airline with the financial ability to weather nearly any storm moving forward.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

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