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.
Kenneth Dichter, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeron, Chief Operating Officer Eric Jacobs, Chief Financial Officer Lee Applbaum, Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Chung, Chief Growth Officer Dan Crowe, Chief Information Officer Vinayak Hegde, Chief Marketplace Officer Lee Gossett, Chief Flight Operations Officer Greg Greeley, Chairman, Wheels Up Marketplace Gail Grimmett, Chief Experience Officer Laura Heltebran, Chief Legal Officer Jason Horowitz, Chief Business Officer Francesca Molinari, Chief People Officer Ken Napolitano, Chief Sales Officer Daniel Tharp, Chief Platform Officer 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. It continues to be known as Wheels Up.
It is the largest Part 135 operator and has the second-largest fleet for hire in the U.S., behind NetJets. In a 20-month span through January 2021, it acquired TMC Jets, tech platform Avianis, Delta Private Jets, Gama Aviation Signature, and Mountain Aviation.
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 is also launching a helicopter service via a partnership with Textron Bell later this year.
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 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 17.6% of common shares. Fidelity related entities hold 17 million shares. Founder Kenny Dichter owns 15.4 million shares, representing 5.2% of equity as of July 2021. CFO Eric Jacobs and CBO Jason Horowitz each hold approximately 1.8 million shares.
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 July 2021, it has approximately 170 owned or leased aircraft, 170 managed aircraft, and its partner operators control 1,200 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?