The carrier is rolling out a new program that will give some of its elite frequent fliers the chance to buy an "upgrade" to switch from their commercial flight to a private jet flight. The offer for the upgrades will go to a small number of fliers, usually within 24 or 48 hours of their scheduled flight. The upgrades will run from $300 to $800.
The program, which could begin as early as this week, was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Delta says the effort will target "high-value customers" who have already achieved elite "Medallion" status with the carrier. When schedules allow, some of those customers now could receive an offer to forgo their regularly scheduled flight and instead take a seat on a private jet scheduled to fly the same route at around the same time.
IN-DEPTH: Delta is about to offer one of the coolest upgrades yet—to very few fliers(Bloomberg News)
Delta's Delta Private Jets subsidiary operates a fleet of 66 aircraft in a business that targets big-spending corporate and wealthy fliers. However planes in such an operation must frequently fly "empty leg" repositioning flights that have no paying passengers on board. The ability to shift elite frequent-fliers to such flights helps Delta promote a premium brand image. But it could also give the company a unique method to court corporate fliers – some of whom might have the means to at least occasionally consider paying for travel on Delta's private jet unit.
"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, said to Bloomberg during a June interview.
Turner told Bloomberg the goal is "not necessarily to break even, but to at least get some type of income" from the otherwise empty flights.
Delta is ironing out some of the last details for the effort, but it could launch as soon as Wednesday (July 29).
Still, Delta's elite customers should keep their private-jet upgrade hopes in check. Delta says only a small number of private jet flights would be opened up for upgrades, especially at first, according to Bloomberg.
For those who do receive the option, upgrades will range from $300 to $800. They'll initially be focused on private jet flights operating to or from Delta's hubs in
Atlanta, New York and Cincinnati. The Delta Private Jets unit is headquartered in Erlanger, Ky., near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
But Bloomberg warns "miles junkies, take note: There's no bonus in the upgrade, just the usual mileage accrual one would get taking the regular Delta flight."
Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY