Membership-based private flight company Wheels Up announced it was acquiring floating fleet charter operator Travel Management Company (TMC). Terms of the deal were not released.
TMC operates 26 Hawker 400XP and Nextant 400XT light jets across the eastern half of the U.S. on a floating fleet model of one-way priced charters, focusing on the wholesale charter channel consisting mostly of charter brokers.
Wheels Up is a membership model with 93 aircraft; 72 King Air 350i executive turboprops, 15 Citation Excel/XLS midsize jets and 6 Citation X super-midsize jets, and will also arrange other ad hoc charters functioning as a charter broker. Wheels Up program aircraft are managed and operated by Gama Aviation. Both TMC and Gama Aviation carry ratings of ARGUS Platinum, Wyvern Wingman and IS-BAO Registered.
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TMC ranked as the 10th most active Part 135 operator in the US according to ARGUS International, flying 19,033 hours in 2018. ARGUS data shows Gama Aviation was the #1 most active Part 135 operator in 2018 flying 91,195 hours.
The 26 light jets of TMC compliment Wheels Up’s existing fleet which was absent of aircraft in the light jet category. Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter stressed that the acquisition will not alter Gama Aviation’s role in operating Wheels Up’s fleet. “We love our relationship with Gama,” he told AIN.
According to Dichter, TMC will operate as a separate subsidiary of Wheels Up and continue to provide the same service to its existing wholesale channel partners. TMC will also continue to be lead by its existing leadership team, including CEO Phil Dodyk.
Private equity company TPG Growth bought TMC from its founder Pete Liegl in 2017. TPG also owned a significant stake in XOJET at the time. It sold XOJET to Vista Global in September 2018. TMC owned 68 aircraft when it was sold in 2017 – 36 Hawker 400XPs, 29 Hawker 800XPs, two Challenger 604s and one King Air 200. The company was launched in 2006.
“Wheels Up is officially in deal mode,” said Kenny Dichter, Founder and CEO of Wheels Up to Corporate Jet Investor. “Light jets clearly go together with King Airs for entry level users and we now have 119 aircraft. We also get more than 90 great pilots and 125 employees who will stay with the business and keep all of its relationships with channel partners going.”
“This acquisition is a foundational piece in our continued brand evolution and mission to provide our members with a total private aviation solution,” said Dichter. “TMC and its light jet fleet are a perfect complement to our anchor partner, Gama Aviation, which will continue to operate the aircraft in our Wheels Up fleet.”
TMC will operate as an independent subsidiary of Wheels Up. It will stay in Elkhart, Indiana with Dodyk staying as CEO. Gama Aviation will continue to operate the Wheels Up fleet.
“The team at TMC is world-class, and we’re proud of the reputation we’ve earned for being one of the safest and most reliable operators in private aviation,” said Phil Dodyk, CEO of TMC. “By joining Kenny and the Wheels Up team, we’re excited to become part of such a renowned brand and a larger company that is deep with talented leadership, which shares our collective vision of building an industry leader.”
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