Analysis: Wheels Up in 2024 - Pricing, Rules, and Changes (Part 2)

A detailed analysis of Wheels Up 2024 hourly prices, flight costs, and policy changes.

By Doug Gollan, June 17, 2024

Following the changes Wheels Up announced, here is a deeper look at the price changes and how they impact various flight profiles, including longer flights.

Before diving in, my first take is Wheels Up has made its Membership (formerly Core) stronger in two ways:

  • They cut daily minimums on King Airs, Light, and Midsize jets across the board, with the most meaningful reductions on two jet categories.
  • The vastly improved 100k program becomes a solid option for low-volume flyers and those who want to limit their exposure.

However, they also took away the long-flight discounts that offered capped rates for flights over 3.5 hours.

  • The long-flight discount was always a promotion and was not part of the contracts. The good news is that the low prices are still around, just perhaps more limited, and require seven instead of five days to book. Through July, prices between Teterboro and Van Nuys, Oakland, or San Jose flight prices start at $25,995, plus fuel and taxes. Previously, it was capped at $34,995 + +. Looking at Tampa to Palm Springs in July and August, all but three dates had discounted pricing, and it ranged from $29,700 to $35,000 ++.

So, let’s review what’s in the contract.

I’ll start with the Peak Days, where Wheels Up has been better than the industry and has improved a bit more.

There is no change at the 200k and 400k levels, which stay at 20 dates.

At 100k, Peak Days drop from 40 to 20 days (see chart below).

The average for similar programs at the end of Q1 was 47.5 days.

Peak Days

Peak Days 100k 200k 400k
New Membership 20 20 20
Core Membership 40 20 20

Daily Minimums (table below), which include taxi time, have been reduced on the King Air, Light, and Midsize jets.

The Daily Minimums are now 72 minutes for Light and Midsize jets, including taxi time.

That’s under the 72.9 Q1 average for Light Jets and the 79.0-minute average for Midsize Jets, noting some of those minimums are plus taxi time.

While the Super Midsize Daily Minimum stays at 120 minutes compared to an industry average of 95.1 minutes, Wheels Up wants you to use the category for longer flights.

Daily Minimums

Aircraft Category Core Membership New Membership
King Air* 60 to 72 minutes 60 minutes
Light  90 72
Midsize 102 72
Super Midsize 120 120

*King Air is segment minimum

Regarding the callout, with 48 hours on non-peak dates, Wheels Up is solidly below the industry average of 69.1 hours.

Call-out/Cancelation Window

Core Membership New Membership
Non-peak call-out / Cancel window 48 to 72 hours 48 hours

Now, onto pricing (old and new pricing compared below).

The capped rates have gone up.

However, since they are capped, not fixed, you stand to save money if you are flexible about the time of day or date.

As you scan down, you’ll notice the biggest increase to the caps is with the King Air.

Its rate cap rises 22.5% at 100k and 12.3% at 400k.

Still, the dig on Wheels Up is they are losing money. So, raising rates was expected.

The unknown is the potential savings.

Wheels Up – 100k Fund Hourly Rates*

Aircraft Type / Membership Core Membership New Membership % Change
King Air  $                4,895  $         5,995 22.5%
Light  $                6,895  $         7,795 13.1%
Midsize  $                8,095  $         8,895 9.9%
Super Midsize  $                8,995  $       10,095 12.2%

* Rates exclude FET and Fuel Surcharge

Wheels Up could (and should) provide some data into what savings members saw from the current Core program’s capped rates.

Wheels Up – 200k Fund Hourly Rates*

Aircraft Type / Membership Core Membership New Membership % Change
King Air  $                4,895  $         5,795 18.4%
Light  $                6,895  $         7,595 10.2%
Midsize  $                8,095  $         8,695 7.4%
Super Midsize  $                8,995  $         9,895 10.0%

* Rates exclude FET and Fuel Surcharge

So, while Wheels Up has shined up its 100k offering with lower callouts, fewer peak days, and more dates with guaranteed availability, the lower rate caps on the 200k and 400k offerings incentivize adding funds.

Wheels Up – 400k Fund Hourly Rates*

Aircraft Type / Membership Core Membership New Membership % Change
King Air  $                4,895  $         5,495 12.3%
Light  $                6,895  $         7,395 7.3%
Midsize  $                8,095  $         8,495 4.9%
Super Midsize  $                8,995  $         9,695 7.8%

* Rates exclude FET and Fuel Surcharge

Of course, the proof is in the pudding.

Using our exclusive QUICK COMPARE FLIGHT PRICING TOOL (Column AF in the spreadsheet), I ran flight scenarios for Light and Midsize jets using flight times of 45, 90, and 120 minutes.

I used the 200k rules and capped pricing.

QUICK COMPARE FLIGHT PRICING takes into account daily minimums, taxi time, fuel surcharges, the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax, and even membership fees.

Looking at light jets, the quick take is that despite higher caps, the lower daily minimums mean the highest possible non-peak price for a 45-minute flight drops 12.7%.

That includes both fuel surcharge and FET.

Light Jet Flight Costs

200k Deposit / Flight Time 45 minutes 90 minutes 120 minutes
New Membership  $              10,362  $       14,828  $    19,210
Cor Membership  $              11,875  $       13,594  $    17,614
Change % -12.7% 9.1% 9.1%

Looking at Midsize jets, the capped price for a 45-minute all-in flight drops 24.5% to $11,866.

Midsize Jet Flight Costs

200k Deposit / Flight Times 45 minutes 90 minutes 120 minutes
New Membership  $              11,866  $       16,969  $    21,967
Core Membership  $              15,723  $       15,908  $    20,608
Change % -24.5% 6.7% 6.6%

Final Takes

If you have flights under 75 minutes and don’t want a turboprop and you have 90-plus-minute flights where a light or midsize jet works, you could buy both the old and new rules.

After all, the new caps are lower for short-light and mid-flights, while the old caps are better for flights 90 minutes or more.

However, due to limitations on internal systems, two people would need to do so, naming each other as lead passengers.

Executives also say around 50% of flights end up costing below the caps, so it may be an extra membership fee without a benefit.

One area worth watching is the long-flight discounts. Removing that program but essentially keeping the same low rates does two things.

It gives Wheels Up the opportunity to charge higher prices when it can.

But for a provider that is still what might be called a show-me story, it takes away a reason to buy in at higher levels.

As I have a chance to examine the new program in more detail over the coming days and weeks and review examples from your real-life scenarios, I’ll add some extra commentary.

Also, if you missed it, be sure to read Part 1 here.

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