What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, rumors were swirling. Wheels Up was expanding beyond its core King Air 350i and Citation Excel fleet with an off-fleet light jet program.
The new programs, effective January 2nd, will offer dynamic trip pricing with capped hourly rates and guaranteed availability nationwide. They will run across five cabin categories, from its King Air 350i fleet to light, midsize, super-midsize, and large jets.
It’s been a fast path for Wheels Up. The light jet program debuted in February east of the Mississippi on an as-available basis. Then in August, Wheels Up added a super-midsize program with capped hourly rates using its Citation X fleet as the anchor.
During NBAA in October, Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter dropped the word that a large cabin program was coming. Less than 45 days later, it’s here.
Wheels Up will be applying the dynamic pricing, backed by the capped rates to all of its off-fleet aircraft categories. That includes even large-cabin aircraft.
Off-fleet will continue to be limited to Wheels Up safety vetted and verified partner operator aircraft. And, with the exception of the King Air 350i, all levels will have an off-fleet component. The most notable being with the midsize Excels.
In their case, members can book a Wheels Up Excel as available, at the capped hourly rate and are guaranteed a midsize aircraft regardless, possibly with some savings, due to dynamic trip pricing.
Members will be able to compare aircraft and real-time pricing options digitally. All programs are guaranteed nationwide although the western region has slightly different call-outs.
The move to offering hourly rates that are a cap, and then providing potentially lower-priced options through dynamic market-based pricing, takes away a major objection to jet cards. That is in low-demand periods and specific routes, you can beat your jet card’s fixed rates in the on-demand charter market.
That said, it takes time to make sure quality standards come along with a lower price, so the idea that flying at a lower price than the capped rate is now coming from Wheels Up means less need to play the market.
Most of all, Dichter has long talked about spillage from members who had flying needs not met by its King Airs and Citation Excels. That’s no longer an issue.
In fact, Wheels Up is now the only major membership provider to offer guaranteed availability across all four jet cabin categories, plus deliver a high-quality turboprop program.
If you are asking, with this rate cap, did any Wheels Up pricing increase? The answer is no. The King Airs, lights, midsize and super mid pricing has all remained flat. That is on an hourly basis $4,695, $5,795, $7,695, and $9,295, not including FET, respectively.
Large cabin jets come in at $12,995.
Dichter tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “Our capped hourly rates will serve as a transparent and predictable price ceiling for our members, but that’s only half the benefit.”
He adds, “The combination of our capped rates and our dynamic trip pricing will give our members the opportunity to receive trip pricing that has an hourly rate much lower than the capped rate.”
Wheels Up is also expanding its fund deposit program, adding new increments. The benefit of depositing money is reducing peak days and increasing the number of days with guaranteed capped rate. You also reduce daily flight minimums, lead time for booking and cancellation notice periods.
Another key change is the move from actual flight time to estimated flight time. In other words, you know what you will pay when you book the trip. You don’t have to watch the dollars flow out of your wallet when you get a re-routing due to weather or an ATC hold over Southern New Jersey.