Wheels Up is making the second significant update to its jet card membership program in six months. But, once again, it will allow existing members to put down more funds and new members to join under current terms until the new rules and pricing go into effect on June 1, 2022.
Members lock in current terms for up to 24 months, based on deposit level.
At a $100,000 deposit, rules on call-outs, minimums, and hourly rate caps are locked for 12 months. Members and joiners who deposit $200,000 get an 18-month lock, while Core 400 members, those who deposit $400,000, get their hourly rate caps, call-outs, and minimums terms locked for 24 months. Pay-as-you-go Core members are subject to a 30-day notice period for changes.
Its move comes as the industry grapples with supply and demand issues and increased costs. An analysis of over 250 jet card programs by Private Jet Card Comparisons found average hourly rates increased 21% from December 2020 through the end of Q1 2022.
In an email sent to members this evening, the company wrote, “Surging consumer demand – coupled with macroeconomic factors such as the cost of fuel, inflation and supply chain issues – has driven costs higher across the board, and we are making program changes to accurately reflect the true costs of our services and ensure we continue to provide you with a premium travel experience today and in the future.”
Changes to how fuel surcharges are being calculated and new carbon offset charges ranging from $20 to $65 per hour impact all flights booked after June 1, regardless of whether you are flying on new or existing funds.
Before diving in, the biggest impact on current members is going to be the change in how fuel surcharges are calculated, which I will detail below.
The good news is except for the new fuel surcharge methodology and nominal carbon offsets noted below, current members and new members who join by the end of the month can maintain current program rules as below:
|Core Membership Level||Rate and Policy Lock|
|Core Pay-as-you-go||30 days|
|Core 100 ($100,000 deposit)||12 months|
|Core 200 ($200,000 deposit)||18 months|
|Core 400 ($400,000 deposit||24 months|
The goal is clearly to incent larger deposit levels to mitigate future changes.
Last year we made 137 updates to our database, often including more than one program change, and this year we have posted 39 updates. In other words, change is the current norm.
The net impact is that May should be a brisk selling month for Wheels Up, with current members depositing more money and prospects being induced to sign before the June 1 changes.
The only major negative I saw is a new way of calculating fuel surcharges.
The fuel surcharges will be based on jet fuel price and estimated billable flight time at the time of booking.
The weekly rate will be based on a calculation measured against the Argus Jet Fuel Index. The rate will reset every Tuesday based on the closing price of the commodity from the prior day.
The calculation is Argus Price – $2.00 x Hourly Fuel Rate Factor = Fuel Surcharge.
The Hourly Fuel Rate Factor by aircraft cateogry is:
As of April 29, the fuel index was $4.59 per gallon, up from $2.62 on Feb 1, 2022.
Using $4.59, so $4.59 – $2.00 x Hourly Fuel Rate Factor as noted above, means fuel surcharges will increase by $249 to $1,125 per hour, based on aircraft type. You can see my calculations below.
|Current Hourly |
|New Hourly |
|King Air 350i||$ 295||$ 544||+ $ 249|
|Light Jet||$ 495||$ 854||+ $ 359|
|Midsize Jet||$ 595||$ 1,088||+ $ 493|
|Super Midsize Jet||$ 795||$ 1,399||+ $ 604|
|Large Cabin Jet||$ 895||$ 2,020||+ $ 1,125|
If there is a bit of consolation, based on the Feb. 1 price of $2.62 per gallon, the fuel surcharge would have ranged from $230 per hour on the King Air to $484 per hour on large-cabin jets, so while the move more accurately reflects the current state of the market it would also be less than the current structure Wheels Up put out on March 10. That is, of course, if fuel prices go down.
Overall, there are changes impacting days of guaranteed availability, call-outs, daily minimums, and hourly rates.
As of June 1st, 2022, Pay-as-you-go memberships will have 275 guaranteed availability days, down from 300.
Members who deposit $100,000 will have 325 guaranteed availability days, down from 365.
Core 200 and Core 400 members, who deposit $200,000 or $400,000, continue to have guaranteed availability 365 days per year.
The new hourly rate caps only impact new members joining beginning in June or for existing members once their current rate lock expires or they use their existing funds.
There are no changes to rates for Super Mids and Large Cabin.
King Air rates increase by $100 per hour for Pay-as-you-go members and $200 per hour for higher tiers. They are now $5,395 per hour and $5,195 per hour, plus fuel, carbon offset, and FET.
Light and Midsize jets jump up by $500 per hour for everybody. You can see the new pricing below.
|Aircraft Category||Pay-as-you-go||Core 100||Core 200||Core 400|
|King Air 350i||$ 5,395||$ 5,195||$ 5,195||$ 5,195|
|Light Jet||$ 6,995||$ 6,995||$ 6,695||$ 6,695|
|Midsize Jet||$ 8,295||$ 8,295||$ 7,995||$ 7,995|
|Super Midsize Jet||$ 9, 295||$ 9,295||$ 9,295||$ 8,895|
|Large Cabin Jet||$ 12,995||$ 12,995||$ 12,995||$ 12,595|
For example, Light Jet capped hourly rates for Pay-as-you-go, and for $100,000 fund members increased $500 from $6,495 to $6,995 per hour, plus fuel, carbon offset, and FET.
For members who deposit $200,000 or more, their light jet capped rates increase $500, from $6,195 to $6,695 per hour, plus fuel, carbon offset, and FET.
With the new method of calculating fuel surcharges, which changes week-to-week, hourly capped rates, including FET and carbon offsets for light jets, will be $8,146 or $8,469 using the pricing that goes into effect June 1, but this week’s fuel surcharge.
If you join before June 1 or add funds, with your rate lock, your hourly rate caps would be $7,646 for Core 200 and Core 400 or $7,969 per hour for Core 100 and Pay-as-you-go.
How does Wheels Up compare to the rest of the market? At the end of Q1, including FET and fuel surcharges, the hourly rate for light jets was $7,564.
After going from 5% to 10% in November 2021, Peak Day Surcharge goes to 15%, again, not impacting funds deposited before June 1 for their lock period.
There are several changes to Daily Minimums.
Daily Minimums are essential because your flight charge is still based on that Daily Minimum if you fly under the minimum.
Pay-as-you-go Daily Minimums are the same nationwide and go to 72 minutes on the King Air (from 60 minutes), 120 minutes on light and midsize jets (from 90 minutes in the East and Midwest), stay at 150 on super mids, and increase to 180 minutes on large-cabin jets (from 150 minute).
Core 100, 200, and 400 members see the minimums on the King Air go to 66 minutes (from 60 minutes), 102 minutes on midsize jets (They previously ranged between 72 and 120 minutes based on deposit level and region), stay at 120 minutes on super mids, and go to 150 minutes on large-cabin aircraft (They had been 120 minutes for Core 400).
For Core 100 members, light jets will be 120 minutes in the West and 108 minutes in the rest of the country. For Core 200 and 400 members, they will be 102 minutes nationwide.
All minimums include 12 minutes of taxi time.
The only change we spotted on call-outs was that the non-peak lead time to book light jets for Core 100 members goes from 72 to 48 hours.
Wheels Up now adds a Carbon Offset program. It is using the same offset broker as partner Delta Air Lines. Projects will be regulated under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
There will be an hourly surcharge per category as follows:
I’ve not seen a final contract yet, nor the updated peak day calendar for new members, so it’s possible there is more. In short, this appears to be a re-run of how Wheels Up executed its program changes in November 2021.
Again, current members and anyone who joins before June 1 are able to lock in current terms for up to two years.
There are apparently no changes to membership joining and renewal fees.
I’ve also updated the comparisons for paid subscribers to reflect the new fuel surcharges. I’ll update the changes to rates, call-outs, daily minimums, and so forth on June 1 when they go into effect, as until then the current program is what Wheels Up is selling.
For current members who are happy, there are good reasons to consider putting down more funds. The changes also continue what I see as a two-tiered focus, with Core 200 and 400 becoming a sort of premium level.
When I first got wind of the changes, I was under the impression that the rate increases and changes to minimums would override existing locks. Other providers have been using force majeure to do so. That wasn’t the case here.