Delta's Ed Bastian on Wheels Up: 'We're just getting started'

Wheels Up is a key component of Delta Air Lines’ premium customer strategy, its CEO Ed Bastian said during The Masters.

By Doug Gollan, April 18, 2024

Wheels Up received another strong endorsement from Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.

During a customer event held at The Masters Tournament in Augusta last week, Bastian told a group of Wheels Up members, “Delta is leaning in operationally, commercially, financially.”

Last year, a Delta-led investment group put up $500 million as losses mounted and cash position faltered despite record revenues at the private airline.

Bastian said, “(Delta’s) strategy for the last 15 years has been to continue to rise above. Then you start building premium services, DeltaOne, the lounges. The thought (Wheels Up founder) Kenny (Dichter) and I had is that the next step of premium is private. No airline has ever had a private experience at scale, and this is what we’re building at Wheels Up.”

Former Delta Board Member George Mattson, who took over as CEO at Wheels Up last year, added, “I knew with that level of commitment to a partnership, and the way Delta thinks about partnerships, we had a really interesting opportunity and a winning hand.”

Mattson said the duo can handle various flying needs, including Delta’s premium offerings, Wheels Up programmatic products, and on-demand charter via Air Partner.

For example, Wheels Up Core members can fly on guaranteed capped rates in the U.S., fly DeltaOne to Europe, and then fly within Europe via Air Partner.

Wheels Up reported continued losses in the fourth quarter of 2023. However, its cash position stabilized. Executives said that EBITDA is still expected to be positive by the end of the year.

Wheels Up is the fourth-largest private jet charter/fractional operator in the U.S.

Bastian concluded by telling members, “We’re just getting started.”

Before investing in August 2023, Bastian signaled his support for boosting Wheels Up during a Q&A at the Wings Club in New York last May.

READ: A brief history of Airlines and Private Jet partnerships

Wheels Up to open new MRO

Separately, Wheels Up said it will open a new state-of-the-art maintenance facility at Palm Beach International Airport later this year.

PBI is the second busiest private jet airport in the U.S.

At the same time, it is closing existing maintenance operations in Cincinnati and Colorado.

It also relocates mobile service units in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and specific service units in Burbank to the Eastern U.S.

Resources currently stationed at its Fort Lauderdale facility will move to PBI.

The company did not say how many employees are impacted. However, it is coordinating with other MROs to offer opportunities for those who are separated.

According to a press release, the move aligns its maintenance capabilities more closely with flying patterns.

READ: Everything you need to know about Wheels Up 2.0

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