Wheels Up lands in Geneva


Kenny Dichter, founder, Wheels Up

Airshows are filled with record orders that never deliver. And re-signings of old ones that have been tweaked. So it is refreshing to see Wheels Up exercise an option on another 35 King Airs with Textron Aviation. It is another example of the membership programme trying to shake up business aviation.

When it launched there were a lot of sceptics about its King Air membership programme.

This did not bother Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up’s founder. As one of the greatest salespeople in aviation he – and his team – thrive on overcoming objections. And he was confident his numbers would add up.

Some 18 months later, his sales pitch clearly working. Wheels Up now has about 1,350 members – including more than 100 corporate members.

Dichter expects to add at least another 800 members by the end of this year. Wheels Up expects its members to fly 25,000 hours in 2015 giving it revenues of $150 million. It plans to double its revenue to $300 million in 2016.

Whilst these figures are impressive, Dichter is now focused on technology and what he calls “social aviation”. The main part of this is the innovative Wheels Up app created by eight in-house developers which launched last month. The app allows a Wheels Up member to sell seats and share costs on a flight they have booked.

Lots of others have tried flight sharing and failed. Wheels Up is confident it will work and initial results have been very promising. Dichter believes the app will get the Millennial set flying privately much earlier in the lives than we have seen in the past (the average age of a jet owner is 64 years old). Wheels Up is launching a new membership tier where members could ride share and receive some other benefits.

By 2020, Dichter expects Wheels Up to have around 8,500 individual members, 2000 corporates and an additional 10,000 members, who would have the Wheels Up App on their phones with the ability to hitch a ride.

That is a lot more sales to close, but Dichter is confident.

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