Wheels Up today announced it is partnering with Bell Textron, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company. It plans to develop short- and long-term solutions with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The collaboration will focus on the growing demand for convenient intra-urban travel from city centers and regional airport helipads.
The announcement means Wheels Up will add helicopter transportation products and services. An initial list of high-demand markets is under review. The expected launch of the service is later this year.
Wheels Up will also offer Delta Air Lines customers connectivity to their scheduled airline flights. Currently, Wheels Up members and Delta customers can travel seamlessly using private and commercial options. They will be able to select VTOLs as another solution in their travel journey.
Wheels Up members gain status in Delta’s SkyMiles program. Wheels Up plans to allow SkyMiles members to use miles for private flights in the future. Wheels Up has long sought to broaden its market reach, including selling memberships through Costco.
“The introduction of VTOL transportation in the select markets will add to the seamless travel experience along the entire travel journey for the Wheels Up Members and customers,” according to a press release.
It continued, “This initiative will also enhance air travel flexibility and reduce vehicular congestion while enabling Wheels Up and Bell to actively explore innovation opportunities to reduce overall environmental impact.”
Bell has designed, certified, and manufactured commercial and military aircraft for more than 85 years. It will enable Wheels Up members and customers to travel via Bell’s industry-leading rotorcraft across a number of intra-city markets. Recently, Wheels Up opened its booking app to non-members.
“We are always looking for different ways and new features to enhance the services we provide to our members and customers and this is a logical evolution of our systematic disruption of the aviation industry, and a vision to extend our holistic approach to air transportation,” said Kenny Dichter, Founder and CEO of Wheels Up.
He added, “Our strategic initiative with global innovation leader Bell is focused on serving our Members’ and Customers’ travel needs using our leading-edge Avianis Flight Management System technology platform for helicopter service.”
“Bell is proud to join with Wheels Up to make this cutting-edge travel solution a reality,” said Mitch Snyder, President and CEO, Bell. “We are excited to work with a company like Wheels Up to display the convenience of helicopter-based travel.”
“We must challenge the status quo as we envision the future of travel,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta Air Lines Chief Customer Experience Officer. “We look forward to our customers being able to take advantage of the latest innovations from Wheels Up.”
Delta is a minority shareholder in Wheels Up after selling Delta Private Jets to the private aviation provider last year.
Earlier this year, rival Flexjet, Sentient, and FXAIR parent Directional Aviation acquired helicopter operator Associated Aircraft Group (AAG) from Lockheed Martin. It offers helicopter jet cards and fractional shares in the Northeast U.S.
United Airlines placed a $1 billion order for 200 Archer eVTOL aircraft, with an option to purchase 100 more for $500 million in February. They are due to enter service in 2024.