Wheels Up Launches Plane-Sharing App

Concept aims to expand private air travel to millions.

Wheels Up

Wheels Up

Wheels Up, the membership-based private aviation firm formed nearly two years ago by former NetJets vice chairman Kenny Dichter, is aiming to expand the private aviation customer base in the United States by millions of travelers with introduction of the industry's first bizplane ride-sharing app.

Dichter says the app will let Wheels Up members share flights on the company's Beech King Air and Cessna Citation fleet to help them dramatically cut the costs of air travel. The goal is to be able to offer a ride-sharing membership pricing tier that would cost travelers around $5,000 a year to join and then as little as $500 an hour to trade cramped airline aisles for the high-flying comfort of a private airplane seat.

"The private jet set right now is several hundred thousand people," Dichter said on CNN. "With our Wheels Up app we think several million people" in the United States will be able to afford regular travel by private aircraft.

Dichter said about half of Wheels Up's 1,350 existing customers have downloaded the plane-sharing app and are already using it to arrange trips. If the concept catches on with the traveling masses as he hopes, Dichter predicts the ride sharing can grow into a multi-billion-dollar business.

Dichter is no stranger to launching aviation "firsts." He invented the jet card business in 2001 with the creation of Marquis Jet, which he sold to NetJets after expanding it into a multi-billion-dollar venture. Dichter says his long-term goal with Wheels Up is to turn the startup into private aviation's biggest and most successful brand.

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