By Tracey Cheek
Wheels Up is looking to make private flying a little more affordable. The membership-based private aviation company just launched a lower-cost tier called 'Wheels Up Connect' that Co-Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter envisions as the Airbnb of private flying.
"We're really bringing private aviation to everybody," Dichter said.
"Wheels Up Community" is a new interactive shared flights platform that allows members to coordinate flight sharing. The community aims to increase shared flight opportunities to help users fly privately for less. Dichter calls the concept "social aviation."
His next priority is acquiring technology to make the program more accessible.
"We have the opportunity, Wheels Up, to become the Open Table or the Airbnb of our space," Dichter said. "What if it was as easy to book a private airplane as it was to book an Uber?"
The price point, of course, is much higher.
Wheels Up Connect members pay an entry fee of $2,995 and then annual dues of $2,495 ー these prices do not include the price of flights which can start at about $595 a seat. Dichter said that this membership is perfect for travelers who typically fly commercial in first class or business class and want more flexibility.
Airlines were off to a rocky start for 2019 due to the government shutdown, with SouthWest Airlines even cutting its forecast as a result. Dichter explained that the shutdown posed fewer problems for private aviation.
"The good news is when things get a little bit crazy ー whether it's bad weather or government shutdowns ー that's when private aviation really shines because we're working out of regional and smaller airports that require less TSA," Dichter said.
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