Wheels up acquires tech company Avianis

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A month after closing on $128.4M for their Class D Equity Round, which valued Wheels Up at over $1.1 billion, the private aviation company has bought the technology and flight management systems company, Avianis, demonstrating that the new battleground for operators is technology.

Kenny Dichter, founder and CEO of Wheels Up, will announce the acquisition today at the Revolution.Aero conference in San Francisco.

“We have been looking at lots of tech companies to help accelerate the development of our digital platform,” said Dichter. “Booking a private jet should be as easy as booking a car with Uber or booking a home with Airbnb.”

After its acquisition of TMC in June of this year, Wheels Up owns 119 aircraft (a mixture of King Air 350i, Hawker 400XP, Citation Excel and Citation X) but it wants to give its 6,000 members instant access to an even larger fleet of aircraft and types through its platform. Its Charter Marketplace already has a network of safety-vetted and verified operators with more than 1,000 aircraft but it wants to grow this operator network even more.

“Avianis already has great operators and we want to add more operators with our open platform and match them with the flight demand driven by our members,” says Dichter.

‘Much more tech-enabled’

“The digital consumer experience we want to deliver requires that our supply side becomes much more tech-enabled. This is a lesson I have learned in other industries and it certainly applies to business aviation. A winning digital marketplace platform enables consumers and operators to come together through sophisticated technology and rich data,” said Dan Crowe, chief information officer of Wheels Up. 

“We want to help operators benefit from our marketplace. This is where Avianis technology will help us build out our advanced marketplace platform. The icing on the cake is the application of Wheels Up data science that creates a next level platform for connecting flyers with aircraft at scale.”

Raising seed capital

Daniel Tharp, founder of Avianis, became involved in business aviation in 2005 when he and his team built a flight scheduling application for a small part-91 operator. He was intrigued by the complexity of the industry. In 2007 he launched Avianis, with the company signing its first operator before the system was live and raising seed capital from a handful of investors. Its customers range from single aircraft operators through to some of the world’s largest operators.

“We set out to provide operators with modern business and operations management solutions that put them at the centre of the universe. We wanted to wrap technology around all aspects of their business and network them with their supply chain,” said Tharp. “All with the eventual goal of bringing our ecosystem of operators efficient and quality demand, while helping to make their business operations more streamlined.”

The new battleground for business jet charter is not about owning planes. It is about platforms. It is not just Wheels Up, Directional Aviation acquired PrivateFly in 2018 and Vista Global bought Jetsmarter in March. And, coincidently, this will be covered in the ‘Bizjet tech arms race’ panel at 8.30 am featuring Wheels Up, Sentient Jet, One Sky and Avinode.