Wheels Up gets $74 million in CARES Act funds

By Doug Gollan, June 19, 2020

Wheels Up Partners Holdings LLC incorporates Wheels Up, Gama Aviation Signature, Delta Private Jets, TMC Jets, and Avianis

If it’s Friday night, it’s a good time to check the Treasury Department’s website for updates about CARES Act awards. Tonight’s reveal showed on June 10 a payroll support agreement providing $74.2 was executed with Wheels Up Partners Holdings LLC.

The diversified New York-based private aviation company becomes the latest and so far one of the largest player to receive government aid. The program is designed to offset the industry’s dramatic decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private Jet Rebound

The industry has recovered from an 80% slide. It is now just about 25% below 2019 levels. However, losing a quarter of your business is still a significant blow for any industry.

After acquisitions of TMC Jets, Delta Private Jets, and Gama Signature Aviation, Wheels Up is the largest Part 135 operator. Delta Air Lines, which is the largest shareholder in the Wheels Up group, received $5.4 billion via the CARES Act.

FlexJet, NetJets, and VistaJet

Last month it was revealed Directional Aviation’s OneSky Flight received $84 million. The unit includes Flexjet, the second-largest fractional operator behind NetJets, Sentient Jet, which sells around $300 million per year in jet cards, and on-demand charter broker PrivateFly.

Its chairman Kenn Ricci has been a vociferous advocate of the program, trading barbs with Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets.


He told Private Jet Card Comparisons, “This is not about propping up a service for the wealthy, as some have inaccurately portrayed it. It’s about preserving the jobs of thousands and ensuring that an industry that touches Americans across all income levels and geographies continues to thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

NetJets has publicly said it didn’t apply for the assistance. In a letter to customers, its president Patrick Gallagher wrote, “We have observed others in our industry badly bruised by the pandemic as the recipients of CARES ACT monies have become public. The names on the list and amounts received have been eye-opening.”

Ricci Is Disappointed

Ricci said, “We are disappointed that some of our largest peers who would have qualified for PSP funding did not apply. They, too, could have had more capital to support employees, suppliers, vendors, and more importantly, our industry’s growth.”

He continued, “No matter how much capital you have, you would be remiss if you didn’t take an opportunity to inject more capital into the opportunities available in our industry. We think failure to obtain funds under the PSP is an opportunity missed for them to do their part to position the industry for a better, stronger post-Covid-19 future.”


Joining the sniping was Thomas Flohr, chairman of Vista Global Holdings, whose interests include VistaJet, XOJET Aviation, and XO. In a letter to his customers noting no layoffs, he linked to an article details redundancies at NetJets Europe.

None of Flohr’s companies have apparently received any aid from the U.S. government to date.

Also Receiving CARES Act Funds

Other private jet operators offering jet card programs receiving money include Clay Lacy Aviation ($26.9 million), Jet Linx Aviation ($20 million), bankrupt JetSuite sister Delux Public Charter, which operates as JSX ($8.9 million), Exclusive Jets LLC, which trades as FlyExclusive ($7 million), Executive Flight Service, which goes by Airshare ($6.9 million), Priester Aviation ($4.4 million), Northern Jet Management ($2.8 million), and Dreamline Aviation ($1.8 million).


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