Wheels Up is a company founded by serial entrepreneur Kenny Dichter who started MarquisJet, pioneer of the 25-hour jet card in 2001. By presenting private jet travel as a lifestyle choice (get home in time to see your kid’s soccer game), he grew the company to over $500 million in revenue before selling to NetJets in 2010. More recently Tequila Avion, which he co-founded with former MarquisJet partner Ken Austin, was in the news after Pernod Ricard reportedly paid $100 million for a controlling interest.
Next week marks the one-year anniversary of Wheels Up, and Dichter said, “The mission statement is to once again further democratize private aviation.”
So far it seems to be working.
Wheels Up’s fleet of King Air 350i turboprops run members “only” $3,950 per occupied hour (A study by The Washington Post found a family of four making $250,000 would be hard pressed to afford that amount for a full year’s worth of vacationing). Yet price is relative, and large jets often charter for $10,000 per hour or more. Dichter figures the more accessible price point Wheels Up is offering means he can now market to between 500,000 and one million households (there are 115 million households in the U.S.), double the target for MarquisJet and enough to eventually generate $1 billion in annual sales.
During an interview for a profile on Elitetraveler.com Dichter said that by making flying privately more affordable he is seeing the wealthy expand the reasons they fly privately. In July, he said, there was a large increase in flying as parents visited their children at camp, and already there is a surge of reservations from members who will be taking their kids to college by private aircraft.
“It used to be you would load up the car. Now you load up the plane,” Dichter tole me.
What are the top five camps and colleges where the offspring of Wheels Up customers can be found?
Top 5 Private Fly Summer Camps:
Camp Mataponi, Sebago Lake, Maine
Camp Takajo, Naples, Maine
Camp Laurel, Mt. Vernon, Maine
Camp Vega, Echo Lake, Maine
Tripp Lake Camp, Poland, Maine
Top 5 Private Fly Colleges:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio