Wheels Up Buys Alante Air Charter, Continues to Expand Marketplace

Deal comes on the heels of acquisition of U.K.-based Air Partner PLC.

[Courtesy: Wheels Up]

Wheels Up (NYSE: UP), a private member-based aircraft operator, announced Thursday that it has acquired Alante Air Charter, a Part 135 operator established in 2014 and based in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

This announcement follows previous acquisition news by the company just last week of Air Partner PLC (LSE: AIR), a U.K.-based global aviation services group with operations in 18 locations across four continents.

The Alante deal will allow Wheels Up to grow its fleet. The company will add 12 CJ3, CJ3+, and CJ4 light jets. It will also welcome 39 pilots. This deal will also add scale to the marketplace, a positive sign to investors.

The deal was made easier because Wheels Up could vet Alante Air when it included it as a verified partner in its more comprehensive network of operators. That network offers access to more than 1,250 partner aircraft to customers.

In a statement to FLYING, Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter said, "Over the past year, we have partnered with Alante Air as a trusted third-party operator, which has served our members well during a period of unprecedented demand in private aviation.

“This acquisition further improves our operational efficiency and ability to offer members and customers access to a larger fleet of light jets, arguably the most in-demand category of aircraft in the industry," Dichter said.

Wheels Up celebrated its IPO last summer. At the time, the company said it plans to democratize private aviation through its marketplace modelprimarily through acquisitions allowing it to scale up an order of magnitude faster than its competitors.

European Expansion

Last week, Wheels Up added U.K.-based Air Partner to its portfolio. Air Partners is another global aviation services group with 18 locations across four continents.

Wheels Up offered £1.25 per share to buy the multi-service broker, equivalent to an enterprise value of approximately $107 million. The company expects to close the deal later in the first quarter, pending shareholders and regulatory approvals.

In a statement to shareholders, Ditcher said, "this acquisition will allow us to offer existing and future customers even more compelling and seamless options for private travel, expand the reach of our marketplace in key markets around the world and add important operational capabilities to our network."

The company expects demand for the charter market in Europe to grow as in the U.S.

Wheels Up will tap into Air Charters' suite of services from Group Charter to other specialist services such as air evacuation. Air Charter also has a safety and security business that offers consulting, research, and other analyses.

Air Partners reported a gross profit of £18.6million, or $25 million, in its half-year results for the first half of 2021. It attributed that to strong private jet travel demand and robust group charter and freight segments. Furthermore, jet card deposits were up 12.5 percent, compared to the same period in 2019, a normal business year, to £19.8 million. For its U.S. market, membership for the Jet cards grew 229 percent year over year as customers clamored for private, on-demand travel.  

Wheels Up is expected to report its fourth-quarter earnings on February 9, and the consensus EPS forecast for the quarter is $-0.26.

Michael Wildes holds a master’s degree in Logistics & Supply Chain Management, and a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Previously, he worked at the university’s flight department as a Flight Check Airman, Assistant Training Manager, and Quality Assurance Mentor. He holds MEI, CFI & CFII ratings. Follow Michael on Twitter @Captainwildes.

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