Jet charter company Wheels Up to enter urban air mobility sector
Jet charter company Wheels Up has announced plans to enter the urban air mobility (UAM) sector – through a partnership with helicopter OEM Bell Textron – to develop short- and long-term solutions for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The collaboration aims to address the growing demand for convenient intra-urban travel from/to city-centres and regional airport helipads.
The initial list of high-demand markets is under review with an expected launch of service later this year.
Bell has been designing commercial and military aircraft for more than 85 years, including a military VTOL, V-280, which is currently being tested.
Mitch Snyder, president and CEO, Bell, said:“We have a history of setting new standards within the industry and utilising our ability to deliver flexible travel solutions to market. We are excited to work with a company like Wheels Up to display the convenience of helicopter-based travel.”
Wheels Up joins other traditional aviation companies starting to invest in the VTOL sector. Zanite Acquisition Corporation, a recent Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) led by Kenn Ricci, founder of Directional Aviation is launching with a focus on advanced air mobility, sustainable aviation and other emerging technologies.
Early in 2021, United Airlines placed an order to buy 200 eVTOL Archer aircraft, worth $1bn. This was announced with the news that Archer was going public through SPAC merger at a value of $3.8bn. The company was recently accused of theft of trade secrets and patent infringement, which it denies.
“We are always looking for different ways and new features to enhance the services we provide to our members and customers and this is a logical evolution of our systematic disruption of the aviation industry,” said Kenny Dichter, founder and CEO of Wheels Up.
Wheels Up also plans to provide this connectivity and new transportation option to customers of Delta Air Lines, an existing partner. Currently, Wheels Up members and Delta customers can travel using private and commercial options and will be able to select VTOL as another solution in their travel journey.
“We must challenge the status quo as we envision the future of travel,” said Bill Lentsch, Delta Air Lines chief customer experience officer. “We look forward to our customers being able to take advantage of the latest innovations from Wheels Up.”
Earlier this year, Wheels Up agreed to go public by merging with Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle. The SPAC deal gives Wheels Up an enterprise value of $2.091bn.
“We have got great investors and we – and others in business aviation – are in the right space at the moment,” Dichter told Corporate Jet Investor.