Wheels Up raises $117 million to expand membership-based airline
Wheels Up, the US-based airline based on a membership service has announced it had raised an additional $117,5 million in funding at a $700 million valuation to fuel its growth, pushing the total raised by the startup to over $200 million.
Having based its business model on servicing short flights in the US market with turbo prop airplanes as opposed to traditional jets, which are more expensive to operate, the startup says it boasts over 4,000 paying members.
The company's 80-strong fleet is made up of 65 King Air 350i turbo prop planes, of which the company has ordered 110 back when it launched in 2013 on a rolling delivery schedule. The remainder of the fleet is completed by 15 Citation XLS jets.
"I think we can be a $5-10 billion company" said Wheels Up CEO, Kenny Ditcher. "There's no reason by 2025 into 2030 we shouldn't have 25,000 or 30,000 members. We should be every year taking more airplanes than we took the year before."
Led by Fidelity and T. Rowe Price, the new funding round will be used to expand the Wheels Up fleet with another 20 King Airs set to be delivered by the end of the year and the startup potentially acquiring more Citation jets. The round followed a $90 million financing deal with KKR.
"We are setting the business up to be a public offering in the next 12 to 18 months" said Ditcher on future plans.