Wheels Up Goes Public: ‘We’re Just Getting Started,’ CEO Says
Wheels Up, an on-demand private aviation provider, began trading on the New York Stock Exchange as Wheels Up Experience under the symbol UP on July 14, following its acquisition by Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.
The change marks the first time a stand-alone private aviation company has been listed on the NYSE or on the Nasdaq, for that matter, Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter says in an interview with The Weekly of Business Aviation.
“It’s an incredibly special day,” Dichter says. “It’s a very good day for us and for our industry. . . . I think it’s going to attract attention to our industry.”
Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle shareholders approved the Wheels Up acquisition on July 12; the deal closed July 13.
The capital raised will be used to accelerate investment in technology and product offerings and to expand Wheels Up’s presence in the market in response to growing demand, he says. The company also will invest in lifestyle and consumer services to complement its membership offerings.
Gross proceeds from the public offering to Wheels Up totals more than $650 million, combining funds held in Aspirational Consumer’s trust account and a concurrent private investment in public equity, or PIPE, funding.
“Aspirational’s purpose was always to support a premium brand that delivers a compelling vision and lifestyle experience for today’s consumer,” says Ravi Thakran, Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle chairman and CEO and a newly appointed Wheels Up board member. “We are thrilled for Wheels Up as they expand globally with the innovative Wheels Up Marketplace.”
Since the Wheels Up founding in 2013, the company’s mission has been to democratize private aviation and bring more people to private aviation, Dichter says. “The Uberization of our space is where we’re at.”
Wheels Up’s first quarter 2021 revenue totaled a record $261.7 million, up 68% from a year ago, while active members increased 56% during the same period. It also posted a net loss of $32.2 million, improved from a $44.5 million loss in the first quarter of 2020.
The company owns and operates 170 aircraft, manages another 170 and has access to another 1,200 vetted aircraft owned by third-party partners. It does not have aircraft on order at this time, Dichter says.
“[The development] gives us incredible options . . . and great flexibility in executing on our forward supply strategy,” Dichter says. “We’re just getting started.”