Kenny Dichter–founder of Marquis Jet, which he sold to NetJets in 2010–announced today that he is re-entering the private aviation market with the launch of Wheels Up, a private aircraft membership club. The new company has placed a $788 million order for 105 Beechcraft King Air 350i twin turboprops, with deliveries of the eight-passenger aircraft due to begin in the fourth quarter and run through 2018. Wheels Up expects to have nine aircraft in its fleet by year-end and 35 total within 24 months.
The company intends to spread its fleet across seven or eight “regional clusters” in the U.S. and is in the final stages of selecting an operating partner from a short list of companies. Membership fees will be below $20,000, and have initially been set at $15,750. Hourly pricing hasn’t yet been disclosed, but Dichter said that a one-way flight with up to nine passengers from Morristown, N.J., to Washington, D.C., would cost $3,950.
Dichter is also launching Wheels Down, a complimentary lifestyle concierge service arm for Wheels Up members. Wheels Down members will have access to exclusive offerings such as special programs around major sporting events, intimate concerts with top performers, culinary experiences with some of the world’s top chefs and meet-and-greet opportunities with entertainers, politicians and business luminaries.