Wheels Up appoints veteran private jet execs to lead diversity push

By Doug Gollan, August 17, 2020

Stephanie Chung and Thomas Fry have joined Wheels Up to help the company expand its cultivation of diverse markets

A week after launching an aircraft sales unit, Wheels Up and its founder and CEO Kenny Dichter are back again. This morning he is announcing plans to tap into diverse markets.

To lead the charge, Stephanie Chung becomes the company’s first chief growth officer. Thomas Fry will work alongside her as director of growth marketing and public relations.

“I’ve known Stephanie for many years and watched her tremendous successes within our industry, so it’s with great pride and excitement that we welcome her to Wheels Up as our first chief growth officer,” said Dichter.

Wheels Up leadership team
Stephanie Chung (left), Thomas Fry, and Gail Grimmett are leading Wheels Up to expand the industry’s diversity quotient and attract new customers.

He added, “She shares our commitment to diversification as a driver for growth and new member acquisition.”

Earlier this year, Wheels Up appointed former Delta Air Line’s senior vice president Gail Grimmett as chief experience officer.

Untapped markets for Private Jets

According to Korn Ferry women hold just 25% of C-suite positions in the U.S. Blacks make up 20% of the employees in the U.S. hospitality industry, but only 1.5% of executives, a Castell Project report highlighted.

A recent paper by Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance criticized the lack of diversity in corporate America. It noted, “Increased representation across gender and ethnic groups improves corporate decision making.”

Black travelers in the U.S. are a $63 billion market in the U.S., according to Mandala. Out Now tabs the LGBT travel market here at a like $63 billion.

Chung and Fry were most recently at JetSuite, helping it achieve recognition for creating a diverse workplace.

Under their watch, JetSuite received a score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI benchmarking survey and report measure corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.

The first African-American female to lead a major private aviation company, Chung was named to Ebony magazine’s Power 100 list earlier this year.

Chung also spent 13 years with Bombardier Business Aircraft starting as a sales director for its SkyJet private jet charter unit. There she rose to vice president of sales for Flexjet from 2007 to 2013.

Fry, a lawyer, who then moved to entertainment marketing, previously worked with Bombardier’s whole aircraft division before moving to VistaJet, where he helped launch its entry into the U.S. market. In 2017, he joined JetSuite.

Non-Traditional Markets

With Wheels Up, they will now lead the company’s efforts to target markets not traditionally at the center of attention for business aviation.

Fry said the new roles are an extension of what Wheels Up had already been doing. He pointed to Dichter’s lead in raising money for Feeding America’s COVID-19 relief, which to date has provided over 15 million meals for the food challenged.

Fry, who is openly gay, says, “It’s about doing something, not just saying something.”

“The current situation with the pandemic is disproportionately impacting communities of color,” he noted.

For Chung and Fry, their appointments come after an 18-month transition at Wheels Up. Since February of 2019 when it launched its entry-level Connect membership, the company has been on a buying spree. It acquired Gama Aviation Signature, Delta Private Jets, and TMC Jets. The deals put it second behind NetJets in shared solutions.

With its new aircraft sales unit, Wheels Up now offers from jet sharing and jet cards to aircraft management and advice on buying new private jets.


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