Wheels Up co-founder and CEO Kenny Dichter says his jet card membership company is on track to double members within the next three-and-a-half years
Speaking at Revolution.Aero being held in San Francisco, Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter told an audience of aviation executives and investors his company will be ready to participate in futuristic private aviation solutions as they develop. “If electric (aircraft) is happening, we want to distribute the technology to our members,” he said. The conference is focused on the future of aviation, including new solutions targeting trips under 300 miles, typically the drive, train and bus market.
Wheels Up offers pay-as-you-go jet card memberships on its fleet of King Air 350i, Citation Excel/XLS and Citation X
With its family memberships starting at $17,500 and then offering pay-as-you-go flying with fixed rates and guaranteed availability Wheels Up has long positioned itself as a leader in democratizing private air travel.
In 2017, Wheels Up continued its prolific fundraising. In 2018 it’s expanding its reach with a Citation X fleet. Now it confirms an IPO may be on the way.
Kenny Dichter, the founder and CEO of Wheels Up, has carved a preeminent spot for himself in the world of business aviation. In 2001 he approached then NetJets Chairman and CEO Richard Santulli with the idea he would buy shares in aircraft from the Warren Buffett owned fractional aircraft operator and then resell them in 25-hour chunks as jet cards. At the time, there was just a handful of players in that young jet card segment. Fractional shares start at 50 hours, so the idea was that Marquis Jet Partners would act as an entry point funneling customers to NetJets as their private flying increased. It did, but it also opened up a new market – affluent individuals and companies that didn’t want to commit to the then five-year contracts that fractional ownership entailed or didn’t anticipate needing 50 hours. It was easy. When you went through your 25 hours, you would call up and buy 25 more hours. There were no monthly management fees. When you flew, you paid.
Kenneth Dichter, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Vinayak Hegde, President Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeron, Chief Operating Officer Dave Holtz, Chairman, Operations Todd Smith, Chief Financial Officer Lee Applbaum, Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Chung, Chief Growth Officer Gene McKenna, Chief Product Officer Greg Greeley, Advisor, Wheels Up Marketplace Laura Heltebran, Chief Legal Officer Jason Horowitz, Chief Business Officer Stevens J. Sainte-Rose, Chief People Officer Ken Napolitano, Chief Sales Officer Daniel Tharp, Chief Platform Officer, Operator Services Phil Dodyk, Chief Aircraft Management Officer Gregg Fahrenbruch, Executive Vice President, 1P Operations Ravi Thakran, Director Timothy Armstrong, Director
Delta Air Lines, Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle, Avianis, Mountain Aviation
Wheels Up Experience Inc. is the new name of Wheels Up Partners Holdings LLC following its merger with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp in July 2021 making it a public company. It continues to be known as Wheels Up.
The acquisition of Delta Private Jets made Delta Air Lines the largest shareholder in the company (Review private jet fractional and membership company M&A activity with our PRIVATE AVIATION DEAL BOOK.) Following Wheels Up’s IPO Delta Air Lines remains the largest shareholder.
It has a wide variety of partnerships, including the NFL Players Association, Porsche, American Express, Costco, Landry’s, Waldorf Astoria, and Inspirato.
It said it would launch a helicopter service via a partnership with Textron Bell in 2021. No further announcements have been made.
The company was founded in 2013 by its CEO Kenny Dichter and veterans of Marquis Jet Partners. It is based in New York City.
Following a SPAC merger with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle, Wheels Up is a pure-play publicly traded private jet operator and a broker. It trades on the NYSE under the symbol UP.
Wheels Up is included in Private Jet Card Comparisons’ database of over 50 jet card providers, enabling you to compare programs in minutes.
When was the company founded?
Who owns Wheels Up?
The company is publicly traded on the NYSE as UP. Delta Air Lines is the largest shareholder with 52 million shares, representing 21.3% of oustanding shares. Fidelity related entities hold 17.5 million shares. Founder Kenny Dichter owns 13.2 million shares, representing 5.4% of equity as of February 2022.
Who is the CEO?
Kenny Dichter is the founder and CEO. He previously founded Marquis Jet Partners in 2001 generating approximately $4 billion in jet card sales before selling to NetJets in 2010.
How are aircraft sourced?
The company uses owned and managed aircraft, plus private jets from vetted charter operators. As of December 2021, it has approximately 250 owned, leased, and managed aircraft.
The first-year initiation fee for families and individuals is $17,500 for its Core membership. Renewal is $8,500. It also has a corporate program, while the Wheels Up Connect program targets flight-sharing and is priced at $2,950. In addition to selling directly to the public, since 2015 a Wheels Up Costco partnership allows members of the big-box retailer to join at a discount.
Do they provide guaranteed availability?
Yes, with limited exceptions based on program level
Is the hourly rate guaranteed?
Yes. On its Core Membership and Corporate Membership, Wheels Up offers capped hourly rates. It then tries to provide lower rates using its owned and managed fleet of over 350 aircraft and an additional safety-vetted fleet of over 1,200 private jets and turboprops.
Can jet card holders/members use multiple aircraft at the same time?