Kenny Dichter and Wheels Up doled out less than $100 million in cash to build the second-largest private jet operator with a $2 billion valuation
When Wheels Up’s acquired 5th-biggest Part 135 charter operator Mountain Aviation in January, it pushed the group past Directional Aviation’s Flexjet as the second-largest for-hire private aircraft operator in the U.S. For Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter, it was a day at the beach compared to another cold New York winter morning in early 2019. At that point, Wheels Up didn’t operate a single aircraft. Founded in 2013, its owned and leased fleet was outsourced to Gama Aviation Signature. Wheels Up was a big brand. Yet, it was merely a marketing organization selling memberships onto what was then mainly a fleet of King Air 350i turboprops.
Wheels Up ended 2020 with 10,995 active members and $690 million in revenues. It’s forecast to reach $912 million this year
– Will Wheels Up be the first private jet company with its own co-branded credit card?
– The private aviation company sees a future for the Wheels Up brand in luxury lodging, yachts, and experiences to credit cards and financial services
Wheels Up is going public via a SPAC. It’s provides a rare look into the world of private jet companies, which are either privately held or subsidiaries of large publicly traded companies, with limited public data.
The transition from Delta Private Jets branding to Wheels Up appears to be more or less complete as the former’s website is now a redirect to its new owner
In December 2019, Wheels Up announced it was acquiring Delta Private Jets. The deal also made Delta Air Lines a significant minority shareholder.
NetJets stayed firmly in the top spot among U.S. private jet operators as Wheels Up zoomed from 11th to 3rd place, while Flexjet, Vista Global, and Jet Linx each made gains
Charter (Part 135) and Fractional Operator (Part 91k) flights accounted for 52.5% of total U.S. private aviation flight hours, pushing Part 91 flying below the half-century mark for the first time, according to Argus TRAQPak data dating back to 2007
The 10 largest U.S. charter and fractional operators accounted for 44.3% of Part 91k/135 activity and 23.2% of total business aviation flight hours
TRAQPak’s 2021 forecast indicates full recovery tilted towards second-half
The takeaways from the 2020 Argus TRAQPak annual review of private jet activity in the U.S. underscores two key trends: Consolidation and acceleration of what has a nearly decade-long move from full private jet ownership to fractional shares, leases, jet cards, and on-demand charter. Looking ahead, Argus analysts don’t expect the total industry to return to pre-COVID-19 numbers until the second half of 2021.