Wheels Up
(Photo: David McIntosh)

Wheels Up

What It Is: Wheels Up’s stated mission is “to democratize private flying by making it more affordable.” The company offers a core membership program using an owned fleet of turboprops and business jets, and a charter brokerage arm.

How It Grew: Entrepreneur Kenny Dichter, developer of NetJets’ Marquis jet card, founded Wheels Up in 2013, offering a new charter concept: guaranteed access to a closed fleet of aircraft at set hourly rates to members who pay initiation and annual renewal fees. Its Wheels Down program promised access to exclusive events and other members-only activities. 

At launch the company announced an order for up to 105 Beechcraft King Air 350i twin turboprops and services, worth some $1.4 billion, and selected Gama Aviation as operator. Company growth has been financed by equity investments totaling more than $550 million to date.

Memberships, first offered in select regions, quickly expanded nationally, and by the end of 2014 Wheels Uhad more than 1,000 members and had added factory-refurbished Cessna Citation Excel/XLS jets to its fleet. The Flight Desk, a charter brokerage service for members needing lift outside the owned fleet, opened in 2015, the same year Wheels Up sponsored American Pharoah at the Belmont Stakes, where the thoroughbred claimed the Triple Crown.

Seasonal flights from the New York and Boston areas to Nantucket, "Same Day Game Day” flights to college football games, and other shuttle services commenced in 2016. Per-seat shuttle flights for members between the New York area and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, launched in 2017, and the super-midsize Cessna Citation X, Wheels Up’s first nonstop transcontinental aircraft, joined its owned fleet the following year.

Activity accelerated in 2019 with launch of the company’s Charter Marketplace platform, a search-and-book app with a pool of more than 1,200 vetted aircraft; and its entry-level Connect membership, which provides access to seats offered for sale on full members’ flights. Also this year, Wheels Up bought Travel Management Company, owner/operator of a light jet charter fleet; and charter management tech developer Avianis Systems.

What It Offers:

Fleet-access programs. Entry-level Connect memberships ($2,995 initiation, $2,495 annual renewal) and standard memberships ($17,500 initiation; $8,500 annual renewal). Models in owned fleet include King Air 350i, Citation Excel/XLS, Citation X, and Hawker 400XP. Membership perks include “Wheels Down” events.

Charter brokerage. Charter Desk and Charter Marketplace. 

Recent News: Wheels Up and Delta Private Jets (DPJ), a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, announced in December a partnership that will merge DPJ’s 70-some jets with the Wheels Up fleet and make the airline, the world’s largest, the charter company’s biggest investor.

Delta Private Jets To Combine with Wheels Up

Related Article

Delta Private Jets To Combine with Wheels Up

The transaction will create one of the industry’s largest fleets of owned and managed bizjets, according to the companies.


FAST FACTS:

Founded: 2013

Members: more than 5,500

Aircraft in fleet: 119

Employees: more than 220

Headquarters: New York

CEO: Kenny Dichter

Website: wheelsup.com

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