Up & Away Aviation has secured new ownership with Unifi Aviation. Up & Away specialises in aircraft cleaning and detailing, serving both commercial airline and private aviation clients.
Unifi is a large ground aviation services company with its HQ in the USA, and is part of the Argenbright Group. The deal was signed by Up & Away founder and CEO Stefan Murphy and Unifi CEO Gautam Thakkar at the UK company’s London Oxford Airport UK HQ.
The agreement formalises as Up & Away prepares to open its 13th base, at London’s Gatwick Airport on 1 August, having recently ramped up its personnel to 500-plus employees. More than 400 of them are dedicated to Up & Away Aviation Services’ airline activity.
Unifi, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is present at more than 200 US airports, offering a range of ground services from ticketing and ground handling to cabin cleaning and cargo.
Up & Away looks to grow its UK business to more than £100m in the region over the next three years.
While the Up & Away brand will remain, Murphy will become Unifi’s managing director in the UK. Ernie Patterson, chairman of international business for Argenbright Group, will provide additional oversight of Unifi’s UK aviation business, working with Up & Away’s team to broaden operations into more airports, including London Heathrow.
Addressing Up & Away’s management in Oxford, Patterson said: “Up & Away brings exactly what Unifi was looking for – a personalised, intimate service offering to customers. It is excited to take that, harness it, help grow and expand the business, using the same culture and same, dedicated team.”
Dialogue between the two companies first opened more than six months ago. Up & Away provides various aviation services, including cabin cleaning, de-icing, executive jet detailing, technical cleaning, and other adjacent aviation services. The business has grown under the leadership of Murphy. The business, originally focused on executive jet clientele, expanded into working with prolific airline customers in 2019 when a leading airline CEO (and business jet owner) asked the company to pitch for its airline cleaning business.
Today, its operations span 13 UK airports, including London Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol and Belfast International, plus UK business aviation airports London Biggin Hill, Farnborough and London Oxford, where it supports a variety of business jets.
“Up & Away has earned a strong reputation for exceptional services,” said Thakkar of Unifi. “We look forward to working with Stefan and his team as they join the Unifi family and build upon Up & Away’s track record. More than 224 million passengers travelled to and from airports in the UK in 2022, and we are confident that our knowledge and experience from operating in 200+ airports, including the world’s busiest, will allow Unifi to replicate its success in the UK and provide customers with an exceptional experience.”
“I have been fortunate to build this company from the ground up,” said Murphy of Up & Away. “I look forward to this immensely exciting phase of growth and joining Unifi, a leading aviation services organisation, opens new doors. I want to thank George Rolls, our former chairman, for his astute guidance and unwavering support through the formative years of the business and recent negotiations. I also want to thank all of Up & Away’s staff and customers for their loyalty and contributions, without which this exciting expansion would not be possible.”
Argenbright Group currently employs more than 5,000 employees in the UK. This acquisition further strengthens the Argenbright Group’s investment in the UK and its people and is part of its strategic commitment to the region.