As someone who has banked 1.4 million miles on United and travels more than 75,000 miles a year, I'm really happy to know that Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter is working hard to make private aviation as easy as hailing an Uber. Sure, you need to invest in an annual membership fee and 24 hours advanced notice, but what we're seeing today is growing pricing parity between first class flights and private plane charters - something that should concern the likes of United, American and other major airlines.
I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Kenny Dichter and ask him about his views on the present and future of private aviation:
And Kenny Dichter isn't the only one working hard to make private aviation as easy as hailing an Uber. Skyuber, BlackJet, Rise, and a host of others are working to leverage apps and mobile technology to attract the flying public who are frustrated with commercial aviation. Even with TSA Pre-Check, the lines at most airports are still long and God help you if you have to make a connection - especially through locations like Chicago where weather delays can ensure you miss your flight home.
"It's the membership economy," says Kenny Dichter. "Nobody has to own anything anymore and nobody wants to take residual risk on airplanes and own the asset. It's not like real-estate. Airplane values go down like car values every year. It's why the leasing business got so big."
The FAA is not excited by the prospect of Uber for Planes, however, as they demonstrated earlier this year. "Instead of embracing this service, the FAA used tortuous logic to ban Flytenow and other online flight-sharing websites because it considered these to be "common carriers" (such as Delta Airlines)," according to Jared Meyer's Forbes article. "Private pilots cannot possibly comply with the myriad regulations that apply to the large airlines".
But while the FAA works hard to maintain control of the skies, there is enough demand from entrepreneurs, business owners and the flying public that will change the shape of airline travel; especially as it pertains to flights that are two hours or less in duration. That's because as cost of private aviation comes down, you simply can't beat the flexibility and hassle-free airport experience.
"With the Wheels Up business model, there are millions of people who can now fly privately," says Kenny Dichter. "And as I always say to my entrepreneurial friends, you're one deal away from flying privately." And Kenny Dichter should know as he was the Founder of Marquis Jet (sold to Warren Buffett via Berkshire Hathaway's owned NetJets) and innovator of the 25-hour fractional card. He has been focused on making private aviation accessible to entrepreneurs for more than 15 years.
As an entrepreneur, you typically either have time or money. Early in your career, most entrepreneur's trade their time so that they can become financially free. As we become more successful, however, time becomes the more valuable asset and we look for ways to maximize the value of our time.
I'm excited that Kenny Dichter and his team at Wheels Up are working hard to make private aviation accessible to more people. Perhaps you should add "Flying Private" to your goals for next year and check out what Wheels Up and companies like them have to offer as an increasingly viable alternative to commercial flying. Just know that once you start flying private, you're never going to want to return to commercial flights. You think first class is awesome, wait until you skip all the headaches of getting to and through the airports. Treat yourself and experience a 10X better way to travel. You'll be glad you did.
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