Middle East top of Wheels Up's expansion plans

“The Middle East…will be one of the first ones we will be starting working on,” incoming Wheels Up board member Ravi Thakran told Arabian Business.

By Doug Gollan, February 18, 2021

As Wheels Up plots its global expansion plans, it looks like the Middle East is at the top of the list.

In an interview with Ravi Thakran, who will become a board director of Wheels Up when it merges with his Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp., the former LVMH executive told Arabian Business the region provides an attractive market.

Wheels Up Middle East

Thakran says the market is ready for change.

“The Middle East was so far basically a market of full-ownership aircraft; basically families own their own aircraft, and they use it for their own family, they don’t like somebody else using it,” Thakran told the regional news website.

However, he added, “I believe that the region is changing. The new generation in the region is, first of all, mostly western educated, and they’re coming with a new set of ethos. All the youth in the region is walking around with a supercomputer in their hand. They are very proud of the connectivity they have. I believe the new generation would not mind a solution like Wheels Up. They would, in fact, love the optionality.”

He said the region is already set for new entrants. “There’s a great concentration of aircraft and great infrastructure, particularly the UAE, which has invested huge amounts of money creating this aerospace hub which is something phenomenal.”

In terms of the expansion, the report quotes Thakran as saying, “The Middle East is an absolutely clear opportunity in front of us and will be one of the first ones we will be starting working on.”

Last year, NetJets said it was planning to expand its presence in the region. VistaJet’s parent Vista Global Holding is based in Dubai. It has said it wants to expand its U.S. brand, XO Global, internationally.

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