Wheels Up raises $115M to make private flying less expensive

Steven Loeb · September 28, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/405d

The company will use the funding to expand across the U.S. and Europe

Not to be crude about it, but flying sucks. The seats are too small, they usher you in like cattle and they treat you terribly. The worst part: they seem to want to do make customers more and more unhappy. Not only have they stopped giving you anything (remember the days when you got a pillow, a blanket and a free set of headphones?) but they are constantly trotting out ideas like making seats with less room and taking out bathrooms so they can cram more people in.

It's gotten so bad that I've seriously started looking into the idea of taking a train instead of flying, and the only reason I wouldn't is because of how long it takes. Give me high-speed rail, though, and it's so long airlines.

It really makes me wish I had money so I could take a private plane, and get some use out of services like Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company.

The company announced on Monday that it has completed its first closing on a capital raise of up to $115 million. The new funding came from funds and trusts managed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., Fidelity Management and Research Company, and NEA.

The Company had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in 2013, and with this latest round its valuation is now greater than $500 million.

Founded in 2013 by by Kenny Dichter, the Founder of Marquis Jet, Wheels Up's mission it to reduce the upfront cost of fly privately. The company offers aircraft with guaranteed availability on its private fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS aircraft.

Wheels Up Members also gains access to the Wheels Down program, featuring exclusive lifestyle events and experiences, unique partner benefits and a full-service luxury concierge, which is also integrated in the Wheels Up app.

Starting at $15,750 a year, Wheels Up allows members to pay fixed hourly rates as they fly, or to purchase hours or credit up front. They can also participate in ride-share opportunities, in which they can reduce the cost of each flight by getting other people onto the same flight.

Wheels Up members also get access to exclusive events and a concierge service through the Wheels Down club, which runs as an affiliated lifestyle brand.

According to Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter, this latest round of financing will fuel the company's United Statesexpansion, set up a base of operations in Europe, and enhance the Company's technology platform, which includes a unique member-to-member ride-sharing feature.

Wheels Up is just one of a number of similar companies to pop up in recent years, and to raise funding in recent months 

There's JetSetGo, an online marketplace for private air travel, which raised funding in July. JetSmarter, a mobile marketplace that seamlessly connects travelers to private jets from their smartphones, which raised $20 million in July. Beacon, a premier all-you-can-fly membership for frequent fliers in the Northeast, raised $7.5 million. 

(Image source: wheelsup.com)

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