Early last year I had the opportunity to fly on a Gulfstream IV between Seattle and San Diego, which changed my perspective on commercial aviation a bit. Being able to skip security and walk right onto a private jet is an incredible experience.
The funny thing is that I walked away from it seeing the value for domestic travel, though for longhaul travel I almost felt like I’d still prefer a top first class product. After all, unless you have a Boeing Business Jet or are the Qatari royal family, a private jet can only get so spacious (though that won’t stop Creflo Dollar from “believing” God for one).
But Delta is trying something now which is truly unique. While we all know that Delta has a huge fleet of commercial planes, most people don’t realize that Delta also has a fleet of 66 private jets, which is in a separate business unit.
Delta is the master of trying to squeeze extra revenue out of passengers, and they’ve just found yet another way to do that. Via BloombergBusiness:
Delta Air Lines is cooking up what may be one of the most appealing flight upgrades yet: one that allows you to bag a commercial flight altogether and board a private jet.
The new upgrade program, targeted at what Delta calls “high-value customers,” will cost $300 to $800, depending on destination. Beginning as soon as this week, passengers who have achieved elite or “medallion” status in Delta’s SkyMiles frequent-flyer program will be eligible for the upgrade offers. But officials stress that the initial number of private jet flights will be small and focused mainly at Delta’s East Coast hubs.
The intention is that within 24-48 hours, select Medallion members will be offered paid upgrades to swap their commercial flights for private jet flights. These won’t be “breakeven” flights for Delta as such. Instead, these opportunities will arise when there are “empty leg” flights. That’s basically when a private jet needs to be positioned to another airport, so would otherwise be flown empty.
By offering this program, Delta is hoping to accomplish two things:
- Generate some incremental revenue. While $300-800 isn’t “breakeven” for any segment as such, it is incremental revenue if the plane would have otherwise flown empty.
- Convert some high value customers into private jet customers. I do think Delta is slightly overestimating their average Medallion’s willingness/ability to spend here. Yes, they might spend $300-800 for an empty leg flight, but a vast majority of high value customers aren’t in a position to fly private (after all, much of this travel is corporately funded, with the “high value” coming from the frequency with which they fly).
This is incredibly innovative on the part of Delta. They are the masters of generating incremental revenue, and this is yet another example of that. For those few Medallion members who are targeted with such an offer, this will be an awesome opportunity. That being said, given how many Medallion members there are and how few empty leg private jet flights there are, I wouldn’t count on getting this offer anytime soon.
What would you be willing to pay to “upgrade” from commercial flying to a private jet on a short East Coast hop?
(Tip of the hat to Abdel Rahim)