Wheels Up makes leadership changes, restructures sales

Wheels Up is restructuring its sales team as a slew of Delta Air Lines veterans assume key roles.

By Doug Gollan, February 5, 2024

Less than six months after Wheels Up gained a $500 million investment from a group led by Delta Air Lines; the company announced a series of management changes this morning.

Perhaps the most interesting changes were not in the press release.

However, first, what Wheels Up announced.

Dave Holtz, who joined Wheels Up in March 2022 as a joint employee with Delta, now moves fully to Wheels Up as Chief Operating Officer.

Holtz is credited with helping Delta integrate operations after its merger with Northwest Airlines and helping the carrier restore its reputation for reliability.

During its Q3 earnings call, Wheels Up reported flight completion and on-time performance, something unique for the industry.

In Q3 of 2023, it showed a completion rate approaching 99%.

Almost 90% of flights departed within 60 minutes of the scheduled time, including ATC, weather, maintenance, and customer delays.

Members get a grace period of up to 60 minutes to be late after their specified departure time.

The Delta connection

Pat Buscher, who retired in 2020 after 40 years with Delta Air Lines and Delta Private Jets, becomes SVP of Maintenance.

He joined Wheels Up last September as a vice president.

25-year Delta veteran Patrick Burns, who joined Wheels Up earlier this month, becomes SVP of Flight Operations

He had been serving as VP of Flight Operations and System Chief Pilot at Delta, overseeing its 17,000 pilots.

Todd Wesoloskie, who joined Wheels Up through its acquisition of Gama Aviation Signature, becomes VP of Flight Operations.

He had previously led the flight provider’s pilot recruitment efforts.

His experience includes being an aircraft mechanic, flight engineer, and pilot.

Rob Hamilton is now SVP of Operations with more than 25 years of Part 135 operations management experience.

He will lead the company’s Member Operations Center, a team overseeing Flight Control, Mission Planning, Member Services, and Enterprise Operations Management.

READ: Wheels Up reports Q3 2023 earnings, publishes on-time performance

Not in the press release

However, Private Jet Card Comparisons can report several other changes.

Rasti Martos, another Delta veteran who had been seconded to Aeromexico, where he was SVP of Revenue and Management and Distribution, joins Wheels Up as SVP of Revenue Management, Network, and Demand Planning.

Mark Briffa, who came to Wheels Up via its acquisition of Air Partner, where he was CEO, had been overseeing sales strategies and managing the overall commercial and sales operations across the entire company.

His title had been EVP & Chief Commercial Officer.

He is now CEO of Air Partner and EVP of Charter.

The memo states Briffa “will continue to be responsible for leading Air Partner globally.”

However, Robert Bourrier, EVP of Global Sales, now reports directly to CEO George Mattson, as does Briffa.

Wheels Up sales structure

The memo says sales will now “be geographically aligned with balanced revenue across three regions supported by a new division designed to drive enhanced alignment and performance.”

For sales, Erin Zugelder is now VP of Northeast; Matt Krebs is VP of Southeast; and Nicole Hammond is SVP – of West.

Brian Munson becomes VP of Sales Enablement and Strategic Partnerships.

Munson joined in December after nearly 24 years with Delta, where he had been General Manager, Corporate Sales.

The internal memo said Munson will focus on “banking, private equity, and luxury brand leaders to help gain access to their key employees and customers.”

He will also lead a team responsible for sales training, competitive intelligence, reporting, and customer resolution.

According to the communication to employees regarding the changes to sales, “All the roles will now support both high-net-worth individual members and corporate customers.”

It continues, “This change will enable us to better serve our customers and members’ daily needs. The team will continue to work closely with our Delta Global Sales counterparts, driving new and existing corporate opportunities.”

Wheels Up and Delta

The Delta connection has been touted by Wheels Up executives as a critical part of their turnaround strategy.

The company uses Delta’s corporate sales team to prospect its 40,000 contracted accounts for private aviation needs.

Business travel flying from those accounts is hoped to balance demand, which Wheels Up says is heavily slanted to leisure flyers and their travel patterns.

In another move, Wheels Up Co-founder Robert Withers moves to EVP of Customer Experience, reporting to the Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Kristen Lauria.

A spokesperson says Withers “will focus on driving a stronger level of proactive engagement with our customers, a deeper understanding of their needs, and work to build a more streamlined and exceptional experience across all customer touchpoints across our business.”

READ: Everything you need to know about Wheels Up 2.0

What’s next for Air Partner?

The moves will likely spur more rumors that Air Partner will be spun off.

Wheels Up has been unwinding much of its M&A activity that was part of its IPO growth strategy.

It divested its management business to Airshare, licensed tech platform Avianis, and spun out its aircraft brokerage unit.

5×5 Trading, the new name for the now independent aircraft brokerage, is quietly selling King Airs, Hawker 400s, and Citation Xs from the fleet.

As far back as June, CFO Todd Smith said the company planned to prune its fleet, selling older aircraft.

At the same time, Mattson, since taking the reins, said, “We’re looking at all options for when to grow the fleet…When and how will be dictated by obviously our rate of progress and performance against the plan that we’ve got in front of us right now.”

As for the UK-based charter broker, the internal memo says, “Air Partner is a critically important pillar of our commercial strategy – a growing and profitable segment of our business.”

It continues, “Under Mark’s leadership, and with the support of an exceptional team, Air Partner is poised for even stronger performance with continued investment in the team and the business and as we drive additional opportunities globally through Wheels Up and Delta.”

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