Private aviation company Wheels Up has named former Air Partner CEO Mark Briffa as its EVP and chief commercial officer, effective March 1, the company announced Thursday during a quarterly earnings call. Briffa will lead the combined Wheels Up and Air Partner global sales force across the company's portfolio of products. Wheels Up acquired Air Partner last year.
From April 2022 until joining Wheels Up, Briffa was president of International Charter & Aviation Services, where he oversaw the charter and services divisions, according to the company.
"We see an opportunity to integrate our Wheels Up and Air Partner sales teams to take a truly global approach, through our sales and commercial work, and introduce a wider range of current and potential customers to the full breadth of our product solutions, target the higher-margin charter segment of our portfolio and extend our reach among corporate and enterprise clients," Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter said.
Briffa's appointment comes as Wheels Up has begun to layoff corporate employees for an annualized savings of $30 million, and about four months after former president Vinayak Hegde left the company in the midst of a management structure "realignment."
The company also plans to consolidate mid-year multiple U.S. facilities into a new operations center in Atlanta, the city where Wheels Up partner Delta Air Lines is headquartered.
In terms of demand, "we've put a lot of emphasis on our business segment," Dichter said. "Our partnership with Delta is yielding us some great partners on the business flying, and that's really a Monday-to-Thursday deal. I think that balancing is also going to help us go forward."
Q4, Full-Year Performance
Wheels Up's fourth-quarter revenue increased 18 percent year over year to about $408 million. Active members increased 5 percent versus a year prior to more than 12,660. Live flight legs, however, decreased 5 percent to just over 19,300 as a result of fewer flight legs per member during the fourth quarter, according to the company. Flight revenue per live leg increased 14 percent to just under $14,180.
Full-year 2022 revenue was nearly $1.6 billion, a company record, up from $1.2 billion in 2021.
Wheels Up's fourth-quarter net loss was $238.9 million, compared with a net loss of $76.6 million a year prior, primarily driven by a non-cash impairment charge of $132 million, according to the company. The full-year net loss was $507 million versus a net loss of $197.2 million in 2021.
The company expects first-quarter revenue to increase about 5 percent year over year.
"January is historically a more volatile month due to the variation in personal and family travel over the holiday period, and the macroeconomic environment made this even more challenging, resulting in a slower start than we anticipated," Wheels Up CFO Todd Smith said. For late February and into March, however, "booking activity is up significantly versus prior months, which gives us confidence heading into Q2."
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