Delta’s best buy-up: Private Jets!

Airlines have not been shy about efforts to drive incremental revenue through offers of discounted upgrades to the big seats up front, especially in the domestic US market. For some Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Medallion members that paid upgrade could be to a MUCH nicer seat on a different plane. A smaller, private plane operated by its Delta Private Jets arm.

The trips will mostly be used to fill seats on the planes as they fly “empty leg” segments where the private jets need to move between bases to pick up the next full-fare paying customer. The plane must fly anyways but getting a paying passenger on board is uncommon, at least one willing to pay the normal charter rates. To help earn back a bit of revenue on those flights many charter operators have opened up access to empty leg flights to consolidators and other booking channels.

Read More: Are Private Jets, Now Much Cheaper, the New Business Class?

For Delta the new offering is a way to reward some of its top tier customers and also have a bit more control over the empty leg segments. Plus it exposes those passengers to the private travel experience at a discounted rate, a move DPJ hopes can work as a loss leader to bring in more customers willing to pay its normal rates. The upgrades are priced between $300-800 per segment and a typical charter operation runs around $5,500 per hour so that’s quite a step up, but some may make the switch.

The logistics of shifting travelers from a regular commercial flight to a DPJ aircraft are not trivial. The operation is currently limited to flying only Tuesday-Friday and only between Atlanta, New York and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. Adding more routes or days would require further DoT approval and likely complicate the aircraft route planning. And, of course, there’s the question of earning points on the flights. Travelers will continue to earn based on the “normal” rates; no super bonus for flying private but also there are still points earnt, something which typically does not happen with private jets.

Overall this is a great marketing play and an opportunity to generate a tiny bit of additional revenue for the company. And maybe even to generate a few new customers. Oh, and also a very, very cool upgrade to score, though paying the $300-800 out of pocket might not be an everyday choice for most travelers.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I wonder how much of this is just a marketing excersize. It seems like it would be quite labor intensive to identify and acquire buy ups. I wouldnt think the uptake rate would be very high either.

    1. No doubt a lot of it is just marketing (and it is working; tons of coverage out there on the topic). But it also isn’t too hard to find a Diamond Medallion or three booked on a nonstop ATL-CVG flight around the time the DPJ plane needs to fly anyways and email them the buy-up offer. If it hits that’s great; if not they’re not really out much.

      1. If they offer it to us, we probably will strongly consider it, at least for the first time, simply for the experience. After that, who knows?

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