Kenny Dichter is Founder and CEO of Wheels Up, the revolutionary membership-based private aviation company that minimizes the upfront investment needed to fly privately. The Company provides members with unmatched accessibility and flexibility through its innovative business model and diverse fleet. Wheels Up offers the only scalable total private aviation solution in the marketplace, ranging from the King Air 350i to the Global 6000, through partnerships with industry leaders such as Beechcraft, Cessna, Heliflite, JetSuite, Jet Aviation and VistaJet.
How did you get into the aviation industry?
I was invited on several private jets in my previous business with my then partners at SFX
Entertainment back in 1998\99. I was instantly taken with the concept and knew I wanted to be
part of the industry. Moving forward, I wanted to fly out of Teterboro and didn’t want to go
back to Newark or LaGuardia anytime soon.
What inspired the idea of Wheels up? What is your vision for the company?
At Marquis Jet we created the first fractional jet card offering 25-hour blocks of time on varied aircraft. We brought a new product, freshness and innovation to the industry. We broke the mold and set a new ‘new’. The opportunity to once again innovate private aviation was too tempting for us to ignore. Ten years of ups and downs in the economy created a need for people to “right size” their aviation portfolios, and we saw a niche in the market we could serve. We also felt it was the perfect time to introduce two of the world’s most iconic airplanes, the King Air 350i and the Citation Excel\XLS, to the marketplace. Our vision for Wheels Up is to be the most relevant private aviation company with world-class partners, 8760 (24hours x 7days x 365 days) member service, and the best in safety and security in the world.
How will your previous success within the aviation industry contribute to Wheels Up?
Our management team is world-class, as are our partners. We know aviation. We know our
members’ needs. We are well on our way to becoming the leader in our space.
What industry trends are you noticing and how are you capitalizing on them? Discuss social
People want more flexibility, less commitment to specific aircraft types, and superior customer
service, along with simplicity and predictability with respect to pricing. When we designed the
Wheels Up membership program, we listened to the marketplace and packaged a product we knew
Social media is a very important element of our overall strategy to engage members and prospects. The relevance, and significance of social media in relation to our business has grown rapidly, even when I just look back to the sale of Marquis Jet in 2010.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that keep Wheels Up ahead of the competition?
We work only with the best in the business. We have aligned with industry leaders such as Textron Aviation, maker of the King Air and Cessna Citation products, Jet Aviation, Gama and VistaJet. All
are in sync with our Wheels Up vision and together we offer the best product at the best pricing.
Your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?
My proudest moments have been anytime I’ve been able to create great returns for investors in my ventures. And we’re just getting started.
What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Things take time. If you have an idea, nurture it, believe it, live it, but know it will take time to develop.
Your favorite type of aircraft?
The Beechcraft King Air 350i and the Cessna Citation Excel/XLS. Both are great American built airplanes.
Favorite travel destination?
I do love Madison, Wisconsin where I went to college! But truthfully, anywhere with my family is terrific. I love to see the world through my children’s eyes!
No pain, no plane.
One food and drink on earth, what would you choose?
“Mother Earth” from Juice Press in NYC, the cutting edge raw, organic, vegan, grab-and-go restaurant.
What literature is on your bed stand?
The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
University of Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon Running Towards Heisman Trophy (Full disclosure: I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and die hard Badger fan!)
Role model - business and personal?
Business: Ken Langone, Co-Founder of Home Depot, investor, philanthropist. I have the honor to sit on a corporate board currently with him and I learn something new every time we meet.
Personal: University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who has been a personal friend and mentor over the last 25 years. He is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met.
What's next for Wheels Up?
We’re targeting 1,000+ members by year’s end 2014 and forecasting 1,250 additional new members in 2015.