Wheels Up COO Bergeson to retire next month

By Doug Gollan, July 16, 2022

Wheels Up Chief Operating Officer Tom Bergeson, who joined the company in 2020, will retire in August

A second C-suite executive is leaving Wheels Up in as many months. Chief Operating Officer Tom Bergeson is retiring.

The move was disclosed in an 8-K filing.

A spokesperson tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “[T]om Bergeson has announced his retirement, effective Aug. 17. President Vinayak Hegde will assume Tom’s responsibilities following his departure. Wheels Up congratulates Tom on an incredibly accomplished aviation career spanning nearly four decades and wishes him the best.”

Bergeson will be able to keep flying with Wheels Up after he leaves. According to the filing, he gets five hours in a King Air in both the third and fourth quarters of 2022.

Last month CFO Eric Jacobs announced he was leaving for a similar position with Ritchie Brothers. After a brief search, he was replaced by General Electric veteran Todd Smith.

Earlier this month, Vincent Kavanagh, the top U.S. sales executive for recently acquired Air Partner, left. He joined Mente Group offshoot Four Corners Aviation as EVP.

The announcement on Bergeson follows a July 6 announcement that Wheels Up had hired Rob Cords as EVP, Fleet Operations & Infrastructure. In the release, it noted Cords would report directly to Hegde.

After joining in May 2021, Hegde, an Airbnb and Amazon veteran, was promoted to President last October.

Wheels Up consolidated its Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Experience Officer roles earlier this year under CMO Lee Applbaum.

Managing complexities

Bergeson is credited with launching Wheels Up’s AirCrew and Maintenance 360 programs. He also led the integration of Delta Private Jets, Gama Aviation, Mountain Aviation, TMC, Alante Air, and Avianis.

During an Investors Day presentation in April 2021, Bergeson, a 35-year Air Force veteran, foreshadowed some of the issues that are vexing the industry amid record demand, labor, and supply chain issues.

He told analysts, “Our commitment is to have the right plane, at the right place, at the right time, every time. While this is simple to say, this could be really challenging in practice due to the very dynamic nature of private aviation and the many variables that must be taken into consideration.”

He added, “The management and execution of flight operations are filled with complexity with multiple variables to consider, such as the temperature and weather, the runway length, the weight and balance of the aircraft, pilot qualifications and currencies, aircraft maintenance schedules, to name but a few. And private aviation has one significant difference from commercial airlines: our schedules change every single day. No two days are the same.”

In May, Wheels Up revamped membership rules, increasing peak days at lower levels and extending call-outs and daily minimums as it seeks to improve operations and profitability.

While Q1 revenues for Wheels Up increased 24% to $325 million, its adjusted EBITDA loss jumped to $49.4 million year-over-year. Its stock continues to trade near its full-year low of $1.82. After its SPAC-based IPO last July, its stock price reached a high of $15.

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