The new light jet program will provide attractive jet pricing for key north-south routes
Wheels Up is poised to launch its first off-fleet pay-as-you-go guaranteed rate program early next year with a light jet card, founder and CEO Kenny Dichter tells Private Jet Card Comparisons. He said the aircraft will come from the jet card provider’s network of vetted operators and will provide members a solution priced between its King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS that will be ideal from places like Boston, New York and Chicago to popular Florida destinations such as Palm Beach, Miami, and Naples.
The founder of Marquis Jet Partners before selling to NetJets in 2010, Dichter launched Wheels Up on the back of an owned fleet of eight-seat King Air 350i (nine if you want to use the lav seat) operated by IS-BAO Stage 3 Gama Aviation. Comparing the twin-engine turboprop to a jeep, Wheels Up marketing of the aircraft has helped grow the segment to where there are now over a dozen jet card programs that offer turboprop and even piston aircraft solutions. Additionally, Wheels Up has an owned (operated by Gama Aviation) fleet of Cessna Citation Excel/XLS and now has six Citation Xs operated on the same basis.
Wheels Up Pricing
King Air pricing is $4,495 per hour plus 7.5% Federal Excise Tax (FET) while the Excel/XLS is priced at $7,495 plus FET. The company has yet to set fixed pricing for the Citation Xs, a move that when it happens will give Wheels Up an aircraft capable of flying nonstop coast-to-coast. Currently, it offers flights outside of its fleet capabilities through an on-demand charter desk.
The Citation Excel/XLS is technically a midsize jet, although some programs such as NetJets features it as a light jet. Adding a true light jet program looks to make Wheels Up more price competitive in the 1,000 + mile key north-south markets where many card customers want a jet. “We are going to be very competitive (in pricing),” Dichter said. The new light jet program will be the first time Wheels Up offers an off-fleet fixed rate program.
The company also is planning to expand the ability of members to share flights through a new community area listing major events that attract members like the Super Bowl and the Masters. There will initially be 35 popular routes featured that will enable members “to find one another” and coordinate shared flights.
“We’re excited about launching a light jet program on our platform to support our growing membership. As we redefine and broaden the base of who can afford to fly privately a light jet offering is our natural next product,” Dichter said.
In terms of making it easier for members to share flights, Dichter said, “There’s no company that’s a bigger believer in social aviation than we are. We surveyed our members and 82% said if it fits their schedule they would share a flight with another member.”
Dichter declined to comment on specific pricing and program details for its upcoming light jet card. Its current fleet offers a national primary service area, 60-minute daily/segment minimums, Wifi, and deicing are included in pricing. The family/individual membership is $17,500 including initiation for the first year. Last year XOJET added an off-fleet light jet program, however, its fixed-rate service area is limited to east of the Mississippi.