The founder of Marquis Jet debuts a new private aviation business—and his sights are set on Westchester.
Courtesy of Wheels Up
Membership in Wheels Up has its privileges, like the ability to zip off to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, or the Cape in a private jet, landing in about an hour. Of course, membership also has its costs: you first have to pony up $15,750 for the initiation fee, followed by annual dues of $7,250 that start in the second year, and hourly flight rates of $3,950 thereafter.
Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter
Launched last August, Wheels Up offers a way for both business and casual travelers to greatly reduce the upfront investments required for private air travel with “mission-appropriate” aircraft, ranging from the King Air 350i to the Global 6000, through partnerships with aerospace leaders such as Beechcraft, Cessna, Jet Aviation, JetSuite, Heliflite, and VistaJet. Kenny Dichter, CEO and founder of the New York City-based business, has plenty of experience in “the democratization of the private aviation business,” having founded Marquis Jet in 2001 and introducing the concept of the fractional jet card. Led by Dichter, Marquis Jet generated more than $4 billion in revenue until it was sold in 2010 to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets.
Dichter considers Westchester to be a major hub for Wheels Up. In early June, the company had a party in the Signature Flight Support hangar at Westchester County Airport, showing off the sleek aircraft, including one very cool Bell helicopter, tricked out for business travel with luxurious leather seating. “There is so much demand in this area,” Dichter says. “We are on target to have 500 members by June 30, and about 400 of them live in the tri-state area.” The company’s goal is to sign up 1,200 members by the end of the year. Complementary to the jet-set lifestyle, the company has a Wheels Down program that gives members access to exclusive events and opportunities to meet the top names in the worlds of entertainment, sports, politics, and business.
Member Gregg Gottsegen of Livingston, NJ joined Wheels Up last November. He got a taste of the private jet lifestyle via friends who owned their own planes. “When I heard about this opportunity to join a start up headed by a guy with a great reputation, I signed right up,” he says.
Jay Grossman from Chappaqua is both a founding partner and member, having found a good synergy between Wheels Up and his business as the president of the Puck Agency, A Briarcliff Manor-based sports agency that represents professional hockey players around the world.
“These athletes are playing at the highest level, making $3 million a year,” Grossman says. “Wheels Up is seamless in understanding the travel needs of pro athletes as well corporate executives.” Plus, he explained, “being able to fly together on a jet as a team is a bonding experience. It really is!”
We can totally understand.