Wheels Up and Delta Private Jets Agree to Combine in 2020

A Wheels Up Cessna Citation Excel/XLS on the ramp. Wheels Up

Wheels Up and Delta Air Lines have reached a definitive agreement for Delta Private Jets, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta, to combine with Wheels Up. The transaction will pair Wheels Up's membership programs, digital platform and lifestyle experiences with Delta Private Jets existing infrastructure to create a partnership with a fleet of more than 190 private aircraft and over 8,000 members and customers.

Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter will continue in his role leading the Wheels Up senior management team as it builds its partnership with Delta, which will also hold an equity position in Wheels Up.

The transaction is expected to close early next year, and in the interim, Delta Private Jets and Wheels Up will continue to serve and communicate with their existing employees, customers, members, partners and vendors in the same manner in which they do today. Financial terms of the transaction will not be disclosed, and the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and required governmental and regulatory approvals. Additionally, there is no expected impact on Delta's (NYSE: DAL) 2019 financial guidance.

The partnership between Delta and Wheels Up will provide more consumers with access to Wheels Up’s private aviation platform and programs alongside Delta’s global network. The combined travel experience will utilize both private and commercial aviation to make private aviation accessible to more consumers.

Passengers board a Wheels Up King Air 350i. Wheels Up

“This groundbreaking partnership will democratize private aviation—making the convenience of private jet travel accessible to more consumers,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “Wheels Up’s lifestyle experiences and innovative digital platform, combined with the scale and service of Delta Private Jets, help further Delta’s mission of connecting people and communities worldwide through travel. This agreement is the latest step in Delta’s ongoing effort to build partnerships that extend Delta’s brand beyond its core business.”

“Bringing together our complementary businesses, which represent the best consumer brands in private and commercial aviation, is transformative and a first for the industry,” said Wheels Up’s Founder and CEO, Kenny Dichter. “The combination of Wheels Up and Delta Private Jets, along with the partnership commitments between Delta and Wheels Up, aligns with our growth objectives and vision of building a platform that will make private flying and the private flying lifestyle accessible to significantly more individuals and businesses in the US and around the world.”

Wheels Up has flown more than 400,000 passengers since being founded in 2013 and has sold more than 6,700 memberships. The company currently has a fleet of 119 aircraft made up of King Air 350i, Citation Excel/XLS, Citation X, and Hawker 400XP aircraft. Delta Air Lines started as a small aerial crop dusting operation called Huff Daland Dusters in 1925, has now grown into one of the world’s largest global airlines, serving 180 million people every year with 5,000 daily departures to more than 300 destinations in over 50 countries.

Wheels Up stated that they are “committed to providing ongoing career opportunities for Delta Private Jets employees” as the combined companies roll out new programs in 2020 and beyond.

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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