The deal will enable Wheels Up to serve as a source of pilots for Delta and a destination for the airline’s pilots who are retiring and want to keep flying, according to Wheels Up Chief People Officer Stevens Sainte-Rose,
Delta will select qualifying pilots from its Propel College Path Program. They will then be able to build hours with Wheels Up. From there, they would have a path to move to the Atlanta-based Part 121 airline.
Delta is set to hire and train more than 2,400 pilots in 2022.
The Propel Program was launched in 2018 to identify, select and develop the next generation of pilots.
Sainte-Rose tells Private Jet Card Comparisons the program’s first pilots will join in the next month.
As Delta pilots reach the mandatory age 65 retirement age for Part 121 flying, Saint-Rose says they will receive information about flying for Wheels Up.
Part 135 doesn’t have a mandatory retirement age.
Addressing the current bottlenecks in getting hired pilots certified, a Wheels Up spokesperson says, “I think it demonstrates why a healthy pilot pipeline – and thus a program like Propel — is important. Having a healthy pipeline means having a constant stream of pilots who are ready to fly revenue flights, and it’s why we’re focused on every stage of the pilot career cycle, from hiring to retention to retirement.”
Wheels Up increased call-outs and peak days at lower membership tier levels effective June 1. It was seeking to reduce pressure on operations.
The new Delta-Wheels Up pilot partnership mirrors a similar partnership set-up in 2019 between Jet Linx Aviation and Southwest Airlines.
Wheels Up is the third largest operator based on charter and fractional flight hours, and jet Linx ranks seventh. Delta ranks as the second-largest U.S. carrier, while Southwest is third.
The spokesperson says the partnership with Delta is expected to yield additional benefits. “Going forward, we expect to use our recent acquisition of Air Partner to enable our members to travel seamlessly to Europe on Delta One and then on to any number of smaller, compelling destinations throughout the continent via private charter.”
Wheels Up members can earn Delta SkyMiles and Medallion status based on deposit levels. They can also use funded accounts to book flights on Delta Air Lines.