New York aviation startup Wheels Up has notched a $128 million Class D equity capital raise co-led by new investor Franklin Templeton, the company said in a press release on Friday (Aug. 9).
Rowe Price and Fidelity Management & Research also signed on, joining other institutional and private investors. Wheels Up now has a valuation north of $1.1 billion.
Wheels Up Founder and CEO Kenny Dichter said this latest round of funding will be used for acquisitions, membership acceleration and scaling its digital platforms.
"The continued support from our existing investors and the strong interest from new institutions … reinforce the dominance that Wheels Up continues to exhibit as an innovative disruptor and leading force in the private aviation and technology industries," said Dichter.
The news comes on the heels of the company's recent acquisition of Travel Management Company (TMC) in May 2019. TMC, the largest wholesale-focused light jet operator in the U.S., will operate as an independent subsidiary of Wheels Up and will continue to provide the same service to their existing channel partners.
"As we invest further in growth-focused initiatives, we will focus on potential strategic acquisitions and rapid digital advancements to further our mission of bringing the highest-quality private flight to millions and the private-flying lifestyle to the world, in order to execute our vision of building the world's most engaged community of private fliers."
The aviation marketplace is massive and still growing. JetSmarter launched in 2013 with the aim of improving the outdated luxury private jet industry, said CEO and Founder Sergey Petrossov. The company makes empty seats available via its app to anyone looking to quickly fly to their next destination.
In March, Aviation marketplace BlackBird received $10 million in a Series A investment funding round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA). BlackBird matches passengers with private pilots who might be going from the same departure city to the same destination at the same time. Through that pricing structure, passengers can travel between 50 and 500 miles in less time for about the same cost of driving.