Wheels Up has announced George N. Mattson as its new Chief Executive Officer. Mattson brings 25 years of aviation experience to the role, as a strategic advisor, financier, business owner/operator and director.
Just last month Delta Air Lines announced it was taking control of Wheels Up, when it led a potential $500m investment, together with investment firms Certares Management and Knighthead Capital Management. The various parties are still working on closing this agreement.
Wheels Up, offers membership-based and on-demand private jet services, and has approximately 12,000 members and customers. The Delta relationship dates to 2020, when Delta Private Jets combined with Wheels Up. Delta provides Wheels Up members with an array of benefits, including access to Delta flights, the opportunity to earn Delta SkyMiles and the ability to earn toward Medallion Status through spend on Wheels Up flights.
Wheels Up has been the largest private aircraft charter operator for several years.
Mattson is a longstanding member of Delta's Board of Directors. He previously served as a partner and co-head of the Global Industrials Group in Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs & Co. from 2002 to 2012, during which time his responsibilities included oversight of the Transportation and Airline practices. Since 2014, he has been the lead investor and Chairman of Tropic Ocean Airways, the nation's second-largest operator of seaplanes. Tropic Ocean Airways is a Wheels Up partner.
"In 10 years, Wheels Up has grown from a startup into a global leader in private aviation, with a strong consumer brand and loyal member community," Mattson said. "I look forward to leading the Wheels Up team, with the operational, commercial, strategic and financial support of Delta and our other new investors."
"George is an exceptional business leader whose background will be instrumental to the continued success of Wheels Up," said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. "With new leadership in place, Wheels Up is well-positioned to drive strategic, operational and financial improvements for its customers and stakeholders in the months and years ahead."
Interim CEO and CFO Todd Smith will continue his work as Wheels Up CFO. Smith was appointed interim CEO in May after founder Kenny Dichter stepped down from the CEO position.
Mattson will be based in Atlanta, home to the recently opened Wheels Up Member Operations Center, which centralizes all of the company's operational functions. Mattson's first official day is expected to be in early October. Wheels Up had been headquartered in New York City, so this is a significant change, and note that Delta is also headquartered in Atlanta, at the main Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – across town from the new Wheels Up Operations Center.
"Our alignment with Delta provides an incredible opportunity for the first time in aviation history to create seamless experiences between the separate ecosystems of private and commercial travel," Mattson said. "I'm thrilled to be working with our world class team and our great partners to realize this tremendous potential in the years to come."