With a number of Trump Administration officials under fire for using private jets, the MSNBC host sees a potential pipeline for Wheels Up.
Usually when private aviation makes the news channel it’s for alleged misuse, being it CEOs needing two planes at a time (although in the case of GE’s Jeff Immelt, there were certainly times it made sense), sending your artwork out of state in empty boxes to avoid sales tax (Dennis Kozlowski) or some other tawdry reasons. This morning during her hourly broadcast on left-leaning MSNBC the 9 am anchor Stephanie Ruhle entered into a discussion of Trump cabinet members who have been using private aircraft fresh on the news that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has racked up a $1 million tab for private flights.
Ruhle, who would never be mistaken as part of the MAGA (Make American Great Again) Fan Club latched onto the Mnuchin news and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s congressional denial that unlike some of his colleagues – Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin, Kellyanne Conway, Scott Pruitt, Wilbur Ross and Betsy DeVos – he hadn’t traveled by private jet – let alone doing it on the tax payer’s dime.
Newsweek captured this exchange where he decided to focus on facts:
“I never took a private jet anywhere,” Zinke told Sen. Maria Cantwell, the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, when she pressed him about three flights, including a $12,375 flight he made last spring from Las Vegas to Kalispell near his hometown in Montana.
Zinke’s defense was his wings were aboard a Beechcraft King Air 200, a turboprop.
Ruhle then spun into action giving Wheels Up a quick commercial to her viewers. She said that Zinke and Mnuchin should call Wheels Up, the jet card seller which offers the King Air 350i turboprop – as well as Citation private jets. She went so far as to invite the two officials to call her saying, “I know Kenny D,” a reference to Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter.
We didn’t bother Dichter to see if he sees government officials as a source of business leads. He’s previously said he wants to see his membership surpass the 20,000 mark. The company recently took delivery of its first Citation Xs, an aircraft that gives its fleet the range for missions to Europe, Hawaii and certainly from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. nonstop, which could be convenient for the California based Treasury Secretary.
DeVos may not need any additional private aviation solutions. It is believed companies associate with her family and its Amway business operate at least 10 private jets, including possibly a Boeing Business Jet. She has previously said she doesn’t take any reimbursements for her government travel, however with it coming out during an interview with CBS she hadn’t visited any underperforming schools during her tenure, that might change. At the same time, Price, the former Health and Human Services secretary might like the Wheels Up pay as you go model which means while there are deposit programs where you need to put down six figures, you only need $17,500 if you want to join. For government officials on a budget, Ruhle forgot to mention that Costco customers get a $3,000 gift card when they buy a Wheels Up membership through the big box retailer.
While Wheels Up has made its mark with marketing by sponsoring ESPN’s Game Day college football programming (above with host Kirk Herbstreit), including flying in the show’s special guest each week, including an airport camera to capture the arrival, perhaps there is business inside the Beltway as well.