Wheels Up Announces New Financing, Plans To Open Atlanta Ops Center
ORLANDO—On-demand private aviation provider Wheels Up Partners announced a new $270 million financing agreement, along with plans to open a Member Operations Center in Atlanta that would create 350 jobs.
Wheels Up has issued equipment notes in an Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates loan structure, which will provide an estimated $259 million on net proceeds before expenses. It is secured by a primary lien on certain Wheels Up-owned aircraft, the company says.
The proceeds give the company additional flexibility to invest in its members, operational capability and technology, Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichte told Aviation Week at the National Business Aviation Association Convention & Exhibition here.
“It’s an exciting time to be able to put that on the balance sheet” Dichter says of the financing.
In the meantime, work has begun on a 34,000-ft.2 Member Operations Center near the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
“It’s a very powerful footprint that we’re putting in Atlanta,” Dichter says. “We’re excited to be in the same metro as our largest shareholder, Delta Air Lines.”
The center will house and consolidate Wheels Up operations, member services, scheduling, dispatch, directors of maintenance, a maintenance call center and other functions, says Dave Holtz, Wheels Up chair of operations and a former head of Delta Air Lines operations center.
“Not only is it going to be a nice Member Center for us to run the operations by, but it’s also going to have some space if members need to stop by or find a conference room,” Holtz says. “We’ll have places there for them to sit and work as well.”
Addition of the facility also ensures that Wheels Up serves its members as quicky and efficiently as possible, he says. Atlanta made sense from a talent, expertise and quality of life standpoint.
With functions under one roof, “you can make speedier decisions for the customer, and you can also reduce delays for [them],” Holtz says. “You can’t separate operational performance and good member service. They’re linked.”
The 350 jobs will be a mix of new hires and employees who relocate from other sites.
A lease with the airport has been signed, with construction projected to be completed in the second quarter of 2023. The site is expected to be fully staffed by the summer of 2023.
Wheels Up members have grown to 12,667, up 20% from a year ago, with a retention rate higher than 80%, Dichter says. Second quarter 2022 revenue totaled $425.5 million, up 49% from a year ago, while net losses totaled $92.8 million, up $63.8 million compared to a year ago.