Haute Travel: Delta Offers Private Jet Upgrades to VIPs

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Delta Air Lines is offering the ultimate upgrade to VIP customers—the ability to forget the luxuries of first class entirely by boarding an uber-exclusive private jet.

The service, which is meant to begin this week, will be available to passengers who have achieved elite or “medallion” status in Delta’s SkyMiles frequent-flyer program and will cost an additional $300-$800, which is pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Essentially, Delta Private Jets will target corporations that don’t balk at spending money as well as wealthy fliers.

The thought was, initially, that the upgrade would be available only to Delta’s top customers— the “Diamond Medallion” folks (your status when you spend $15,000 at Delta and travel at least 125,000 miles or 140 flight segments per year). They changed their minds and now are inviting guests who travel 25,000 miles or 30 segments annually, and who spend $3,000.

The upgrade will include transportation to the departure airport’s private aviation area and complimentary catering on board each of the airplanes in its fleet of 66 private jets. Most of the upgrades will involve travel scheduled the next day, although Delta Private Jets said it would have some flights that offer travelers as much as 48 hours’ notice. Unfortunately for west coasters, the service is targeting east coast clientele.

“The hope is that once someone flies private, and they don’t have to go through TSA, and they have the experience, then they may determine that they want to fly private more often,” Cyril Turner, Delta Private Jets’ CEO, told Bloomberg News earlier this year, adding that the goal is “not necessarily to break even but to at least get some type of income” from the empty flights.

These flights, otherwise known as “empty legs”—the need to reposition a jet without having a customer headed to that particular location—are one of the most expensive problems in private aviation, and account for nearly a third of all private flights. It is the hope that Delta’s new private platform will help to eliminate said problems.


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