Above it All With Wheels Up

Anyone following the short-haul aviation boom since Marquis Jet changed the game in the early aughts has observed Wheels Up’s first year as a bona fide private aviation disrupter with keen interest. Disappointed they are not.

Introduced as the first private aviation club of its type, Wheels Up has swiftly delivered on its promise as the wise choice for savvy private travelers. As a hipper and more flexible option than fractional ownership and jet card models, Wheels Up is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Kenny Dichter, who knows a thing or two about the business of private aviation. The founder of Marquis Jet (later merged with NetJets) and innovator of the first 25-hour fractional jet card, Dichter deftly spotted an opportunity to shake up the private aviation sector yet again with Wheels Up. The result has yielded greater flexibility, more appropriate aircraft for the shorter routes, a suite of lifestyle benefits tailored to member wants, and a vastly lowered cost of entry.

Wheels Up hangar in White Plains, NY
Wheels Up hangar in White Plains, NY

The exclusive club model allows Wheels Up to offer pricing significantly below that of its more conventional competitors, paving the way for additional benefits only a membership model can deliver (a gospel we swear by here at Eleven James). The perk-heavy Wheels Down program offers curated access to events like the Super Bowl and Art Basel, elbow-rubbing opportunities with A-listers and influencers, and retail and travel perks a-go-go. To travel any other way would almost seem ridiculous by comparison.

In building Wheels Up’s fleet Dichter shrewdly zeroed in on the King Air 350i as the heart of their aircraft arsenal. Historically a trusted workhorse turboprop, the new updated King Air350i couldn’t fit the private jetsetter’s needs better—its luxury cabin carries up to nine passengers, is designed for the distances they need to travel, and is easily outfitted as a luxe SUV in the sky (each aircraft being wifi-enabled and VIP-equipped). The kicker is that it does all of the above far more economically than a standard jet, and in virtually the same time.

Luxe interior of the King Air 3501
Luxe interior of the King Air 3501

In addition to the jaunty King Airs, business jet aficionados can also enjoy the familiar comforts of a Cessna, as a closed fleet of Citation Excel/XLS’s have joined Wheels Up’s hangars, along with partner-based access to Gulfstreams, Global 5000’s, Sikorsky choppers, and more. Which is to say, no matter how or where you fly, Wheels Up has a private aircraft to get you there.

We at Eleven James fancy Wheels Up for reigniting the joy of discovery once fundamental to air travel—a distinguished and splendid enterprise gilded by nostalgia and only hinted at in episodes of Mad Men. In true 21st century fashion, Wheels Up has simultaneously revived the luster of executive aviation and lowered the barrier to entry into it.

Speaking of the 21st century, Wheels Up is also fixing to release an elegant, proprietary mobile app in the coming months to further enhance their “8760” service promise (that’s the 24 hours in a day, multiplied by the 365 days in a year). The app will streamline the process of reserving flights, open the door to elegant flight share options offering a host of other ways to make smarter use of private travel. Do it all with one hand while you don’t fumble for boarding passes or remove your footwear with the other.

And if that’s not raising the bar sky-high (where the aviation bar belongs), we’re stumped for what is.

Oh, and by the way, did we mention that Eleven James members enjoy preferred rates on their Wheels Up membership? Not an Eleven James member yet? Apply now and join the community.

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