Thursday, November 24, 2016

Private aviation company Wheels Up now taking wealthy executives to Cuba

After a year flying to Cuba, membership-based private airline Wheels Up is ready to open up flights to all its members.

The New York-based startup announced Tuesday it will start offering flights to and from Havana from 18 airports in the U.S., including Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The airline has also launched an on-the-ground booking assistance program on the island.

Wheels Up has made more than 150 trips to Cuba since August 2015, but the announcement marks the first time it’s opening up flights to all of its 3,500-plus members.

“We wanted to really get a few couple hundred flights under our belt to get all the kinks before we roll it out,” said Justin Firestone, founding partner of the aviation company.

For a $3,950 per flight hour member rate, members fly on nine-passenger Beechcraft King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS aircraft.

Firestone, who serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Cuba Business Council, said Wheels Up has flown about 20 percent of the 1,000 private jets flights to Cuba over the last year. The airline typically takes major Fortune 500 companies and wealthy Cuban Americans to the island.

Traveling to Cuba must still fall under the 12 approved categories of travel to the island.


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