From pricing to flexibility to concierge services and an easy-access mobile app, membership-based private aviation gives CEOs the ability to minimize time spent between meetings and events so they can keep their businesses running. We spoke with Robert Garrymore, President, Corporate Sales, of Wheels Up, about the benefits of membership-based private aviation.
Q: How does membership-based private aviation compare to other options in the private aviation marketplace?
A: With Wheels Up, you aren’t purchasing an asset or agreeing to a long-term commitment. We cater to our members’ needs 24 hours a day both in the air and on the ground. We have a private fleet of over 60 planes around the country that are all available to our members with up to 24 hours’ notice, by paying a membership fee and a fixed price-per-hour to use the plane. We can control the quality of our aircraft and deliver a consistent service no matter where a member utilizes their membership.
Q: How have the private aviation needs of executives and other members changed over the last 5 years, and how do you anticipate it will continue to change over the next 5 years?
A: Over the last 5 years, there has been a migration away from owning airplanes, both whole aircraft and fractional, to buying hours aboard aircraft. This model is resonating with private aviation consumers that are looking for smart alternatives to the traditional solutions. The proliferation of technology-based solutions has increased immensely. The Wheels Up App has changed the way our members engage with all aspects of our program. Our members can ultimately manage every aspect of their membership from the palm of their hands. Over the next 5 years, technology will continue to influence how private aviation is delivered and shared among consumers in ways we may not be able to contemplate right now. One thing that will remain constant: there will always be need for travel.
Q: How does membership-based private aviation better meet the needs of today’s savvy business executive, compared with other options?
A: Years ago, private aviation consumers were required to purchase the asset to gain access to it, whole or fractional. Like any depreciating asset, there are residual value risks which can be significant and unpredictable. A membership model mitigates the risk of asset ownership without sacrificing quality and consistency. The membership model allows our members to scale with us. We can ebb and flow with their changing needs—month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter, or year-to-year—with no long-term obligations or financial commitments.
Q: If a corporation has one or more of their own planes, why would they consider being part of a membership-based club?
A: A membership model is a valuable platform to supplement whole aircraft and fill in the operational gaps. When an aircraft is down for maintenance, on an extended trip, or a member needs to move multiple parties in different directions at the same time, the Wheels Up private fleet is a turnkey solution. We can fill that void with guaranteed availability, high quality and at a fixed hourly price point; members know what they are going to get – it is an insurance policy of sorts.
Q: What is unique about the make-up of your fleet?
A: Our private fleet of over 60 aircraft consists of two aircraft types—the eight-passenger Beechcraft King Air 350i and the eight-passenger Citation Excel/XLS. With these two aircraft types, we are able to service a majority of flight needs for both companies and individuals. Our exclusive on the King Air 350i has really allowed us to redefine private aviation. With seating for eight, range of over three hours, a stand-up lavatory, Wi-Fi and a fixed hourly occupied rate of $3,950, our King Air 350i is one of the most economical and efficient ways to fly private.
Q: How does technology play a part in the booking and availability of your fleet?
A: The Wheels Up App allows our members to get the most out of their membership experience by providing a simple and seamless way to engage with all program features. From booking a flight on our private fleet to requesting a charter flight through the Wheels Up Flight Desk, the App gives members the ability to control all aspects of their membership in the palm of their hands.
Q: What’s the biggest single advantage of a membership-based program?
A: With a program such as Wheels Up, you are getting access to a national fleet of aircraft with a low barrier to entry and transparent pricing, with no long-term obligation or financial commitments required.
Q: Your company is aptly named “Wheels Up,” but what is the “Wheels Down” part of your business and how has that been received by your clients?
A: As a lifestyle, events and concierge program, Wheels Down provides members with unique partner benefits and inside access to exclusive experiences through the worlds of sports, business, culture, and entertainment. In just this past year, Wheels Up members shared in a variety of experiences, ranging from exclusive events around the Super Bowl, the Masters and Art Basel to more intimate gatherings hosted by our A-list of Ambassador athletes, entertainers, and industry leaders.
Wheels Down also includes Wheels Down Concierge by Four Hundred, a full-service global concierge program that offers access to sought-after restaurants, sporting events, concerts, clubs, and much more. Our members appreciate that our program is not just about travel in the air, it’s about life on the ground. From the moment our members join, they have access to a private aviation network that travels with them from wheels up to wheels down.
Q: How can membership-based private aviation programs be tailored to fit individual members’ needs?
A: Our members have access to the Wheels Up Member Services team, which serves as the epicenter of our members’ travel planning activity and the hub of their membership experience.
Whether it’s welcoming members to the Wheels Up program, booking a flight, updating an itinerary, arranging ground transportation or catering, inquiring about aircraft or just learning more about the Wheels Up program, Member Services stands ready, 24/7, to provide support and solutions to our members. It is truly Social Aviation!
Wheels Up acts as agent for the Wheels Up members, and is not the operator of the program aircraft; FAA-licensed and DOT registered air carriers participating in the program exercise full operational control of the program aircraft. Any aircraft owned or leased by Wheels Up are dry leased to the operating air carrier to facilitate operations by that carrier.