Wheels Up Lays Foundation for European Expansion

By David Donald in AIN Online

Having signed up its 3,500th member in the U.S. this week, Wheels Up has begun the process of launching in Europe. The membership-based aircraft charter firm incorporated a UK-based subsidiary in June, and last month founding partner John Colucci moved to the UK to oversee the task of establishing Wheels Up Europe.

Although the company has not yet provided details of a timeframe for the start of European operations, Colucci told AIN that they will initially be focused on western Europe and that the company would use the Beechcraft King Air 350i, which is the backbone of its U.S. fleet.

Pricing for Wheels Up Europe would also conform to the U.S. model, in which the first year’s membership is priced at $17,500 ($8,500 annually for renewals) and the King Air costs $3,950 per occupied hour. Members are free to sell space on their bookings through Wheels Up’s app, and empty leg seats are available at a flat rate of $200. Wheels Up reports an 89 percent renewal rate. While the company owns the aircraft, they are operated in the U.S. by Gama Aviation on its AOC.

Wheels Up has achieved success in the U.S. through the use of mobile technology and social media, as well as marketing and hospitality events associated with major sporting events such as the U.S. Masters. Similar techniques are also expected to be applied to Europe, leveraging the popularity of sports such as soccer and rugby to reach potential members.

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