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Wheels Up goes big

Partners with Delta Private Jets, buys Gama Aviation

Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter was on a roll in 2019. “We’re in full deal mode,” he said. He wasn’t kidding.

In January 2020, Wheels Up formed a partnership with Delta Air Lines that will allow Wheels Up and Delta’s Delta Private Jets (DPJ) member-customers access to both companies’ fleets of private aircraft.

“With this expanded private fleet and access to Delta’s global network, Wheels Up is strategically positioned to fulfill every travel need of its now 8,000-plus members and customers,” the company said in a news release. Partnership benefits and other program features will soon follow. “For example, Wheels Up members will be eligible to earn Delta Medallion Status, accrue miles in Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program, and use their Wheels Up Fund program balances to pay for Wheels Up private and Delta commercial flights. Likewise, Delta Private Jets customers will have the opportunity to receive exclusive Wheels Up membership offerings, experiences, and access to the Wheels Up fleet.”

Now comes news of another deal that will make Wheels Up one of the largest aircraft management companies in the world, second only to NetJets, with its fleet of some 750 airplanes. On March 2, the company “acquired Gama Aviation LLC (doing business as Gama Aviation Signature).” Gama Aviation is a “private aviation services company that provides aircraft management” and charter services for its own aircraft. Gama Aviation Signature also has been the exclusive operator of Wheels Up’s fleet of King Air 350i, Citation Excel/XLS, and Citation X airplanes ever since Wheels Up was established in 2013.

Now that Wheels Up has added Gama Aviation Signature, its owned and managed fleet has instantly grown to more than 300 airplanes.

“This transaction supports our long-term vision for the future of Wheels Up, and as we continue to build the fleet and offer aircraft management services, we are uniquely positioned in the market with a full ecosystem for all private aviation needs,” Dichter said. “We welcome Gama and their pilots into our Wheels Up family as a natural step based on the successful history of our two companies.”

According to a Wheels Up statement, “Gama Aviation Signature will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Wheels Up and continue to provide the same service to existing aircraft management and charter customers out of its current location in Shelton, [Connecticut]. Additionally, Wheels Up is committed to providing ongoing career opportunities for Gama employees who deliver world-class private travel, safety and service. Financial terms of the transaction will not be disclosed.”

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
Topics: Aviation Industry, Jet, Financial

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