Wheels Up partners with seaplane operator Tropic Ocean Airways
Plus: Acquisition of Air Partner Plc officially closed
Wheels Up Experience has announced a new strategic partnership and minority investment in Tropic Ocean Airways, the world's largest amphibious airline and leading provider of last-mile private charter and scheduled service in Florida, the Northeastern United States, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and beyond.
The multiyear commercial agreement is the latest step by Wheels Up in its efforts to expand the addressable market for its product offerings and offer a seamless first- to last-mile travel solution for its members and customers. The agreement provides for the integration of Tropic Ocean's charter and certain scheduled by-the-seat services into Wheels Up's marketplace, and Wheels Up members and customers will be able to directly book and pay for travel on Tropic Ocean flights through their normal Wheels Up booking channels.
The parties will initially focus on providing Wheels Up customers with greater accessibility to options within Tropic Ocean's current coverage area. Over time, the parties intend to expand to additional markets in the United States and the Caribbean.
Tropic Ocean operates a single fleet type, late model Cessna Caravan EX aircraft. Tropic Ocean operates two variants of the Caravan, amphibious and wheeled. Amphibious models are capable of interchangeably landing and taking off from the water or a runway, unlocking access to destinations otherwise not accessible by conventional aircraft. Operated by two pilots and carrying up to 9 guests, these aircraft are ideal for trips of 250 miles or less.
Together with the commercial agreement, Wheels Up also announced a minority capital investment in Tropic Ocean, a first for Wheels Up, to help fund the continued growth for Tropic Ocean and to support certain shared initiatives under the commercial agreement, including the introduction of new flight offerings that will be exclusive to Wheels Up customers.
"Tropic Ocean is a leader in providing short-range airlift solutions in urban areas, remote locations and markets with limited airport access or otherwise challenged with last-mile connectivity," said Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter. "Tropic Ocean delivers a strong geographic and product fit as the locations they currently serve are very popular with our members and with an aircraft type that extends the range and access capability of our existing fleet. They are already a Wheels Up safety vetted and verified partner that shares our commitment to customer service, and we look forward to giving our members new and exciting travel opportunities as Tropic Ocean continues to expand."
Founded in 2009, Tropic Ocean operates a fleet of wheeled and amphibious aircraft and serves more than 70 destinations through private and shared charters.
"Wheels Up is a clear leader in private aviation, and we're excited to partner with them in offering even more seamless travel options to their members and customers," said Tropic Ocean CEO Rob Ceravolo. "This partnership will also help us extend the reach of our existing products, invest in our operational capabilities, and expand our offerings to more places and more service types."
Acquisition of Air Partner Plc officially closed
In further news, Wheels Up announced on Friday (1st April)n that it has officially closed its acquisition of Air Partner plc, a UK-based global aviation services group with operations in 18 locations and four continents.
Under the terms of the transaction, and following stockholder and regulatory approval, Wheels Up has acquired the entire issued share capital of Air Partner for 125 pence per share, equivalent to an enterprise value of approximately $109 million.
Founded in 1961, Air Partner is a global aviation services company providing private jet, group and freight charter and aviation safety & security solutions to industry, commerce, governments and private individuals, across civil and military organizations.
"We are thrilled to welcome the Air Partner team as Wheels Up officially goes global," said Wheels Up Chairman and CEO Kenny Dichter. "Air Partner's rich 60-year history in private aviation and complementary services will be an excellent enhancement of our brand as we continue to expand our marketplace and deliver a world-class experience for our members and customers. Bringing these two teams together is a tremendous advantage as we work to reinvent the future of private travel."
In addition to expanding Wheels Up's core private travel offering internationally, the acquisition also adds group charter, freight and safety & security services to the Wheels Up portfolio. The Air Partner leadership team - including CEO Mark Briffa - will continue in their roles going forward.
"The response to this acquisition from our stockholders to our employees to our partners has been overwhelmingly positive," Briffa said. "We expect to leverage Wheels Up's investments in brand, technology, operations and service as we continue our strong start to 2022."
Over time, the company expects to operate all of its core private aviation services under a unified, global Wheels Up brand, building on its established equity as a recognized and trusted private aviation provider. The Air Partner group's subsidiaries - Baines Simmons, Redline Assured Security, CHS Engineering Services and Kenyon International Emergency Services - will continue to operate their established brands under the broader Wheels Up umbrella.
Wheels Up expects the integration of Air Partner's historically profitable business to be accretive to contribution margin and adjusted EBITDA in the first year. Air Partner will maintain its Gatwick, UK, headquarters.
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 7th April 2022 | Issue #648
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