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Wheels Up bolsters leadership team

Vinayak Hegde was recently named president. Hegde has spent decades leading technology, marketing, and product development at world-class organizations. His previous roles include chief marketing officer at Airbnb, global chief marketing officer at Groupon, and numerous positions at Amazon.

“What I see when I see the private aviation industry, it reminds me of what I saw when I joined Amazon in 2000,” said Hegde. “Lack of technology, lack of customer centricity, and this massive opportunity in what I call the marketplace. If you make buying easier, if you provide price transparency, if you offer an easier company experience, more and more people will come buy from us, and that is what we are striving for.”

Tom Bergeson joined the company as chief operating officer. Bergeson retired from the U.S. Air Force, where he specialized in managing dynamic flight operations at scale, after 35 years with a rank of lieutenant general.

“There are a lot of parallels between our military flying operations—what I commanded in Korea—with [two] to 2,000 sorties a day, to doing the hundreds of flights a day [at Wheels Up], where the schedule is different every day. Right now, we are working on tomorrow’s schedule and right now, today, we are making changes to today’s schedule dynamically, and that’s exactly what we did when I was commanding those air operations. So, the ability to do that really relies on a tech platform to give you this visibility on everything and then do some really great optimization algorithms…to get the best schedule out there.”

“We’re over 2,000 employees today,” said Dichter. “On July 14 our stock went public on the New York Stock Exchange. We landed $656 million of fresh capital on our balance sheet. That gives us tremendous flexibility and resources to take our vision to the next level.” The Wheels Up fleet currently consists of 170 owned aircraft, roughly the same number of managed aircraft, and slightly more than 1,200 partner aircraft.

“When we think about where Wheels Up is investing, it’s going to be investing in people that have seen global scale and seen success at the highest level. That’s something I think this industry deserves,” said Dichter. “We’re going to make the Wheels Up platform more global, stronger, a platform that better serves our member and customers around the world. Wheels Up will be the Amazon of aviation.”

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