Membership-based private aviation company Wheels Up (Teterboro) said on August 9 that it had completed a USD128 million round of funding that valued the company USD1.1 billion, CNBC reported.

In the Class D equity capital purchase, Franklin Templeton Investments led the round together with asset management firms T Rowe Price and Fidelity Management & Research, among other investors. The funding will be used for acquisitions, sales and marketing, and building on the virtual carrier's digital platform, Wheels Up CEO Kenny Dichter said.

Investments will continue to be “asset light”, he added, focussed less on buying aircraft than on expanding its technological resources to enable anyone to book a flight whenever and wherever they need to.

“Three years from now, we want to be the Airbnb, the Open Table, the Hotel Tonight of the private aviation space,” he said.

On May 31, the company closed a deal to buy Travel Management Company (TMC, Elkhart), a wholesale-focussed light jet operator whose fleet will complement Wheels Up’s fleet of seventy-two Beech (twin turboprop), fifteen Cessna Aircraft Company Citation Excel/XLSs, and six Citation Xs, which are operated exclusively by Gama Aviation (United States of America) (Bridgeport). Wheels Up has so far attracted more than 6,000 members, in particular targetting high-profile US sports stars.

The funding round escalates the competition in the private aviation space in a new era of consolidation and digital-booking apps and scheduling programmes, CNBC said, pitching Wheels Up against the likes of VistaJet (Malta) and Flexjet owner Directional Aviation.