Delta Private Jet Upgrades: What Happened to Delta’s Promised Surprise and Delight?

This week a video went viral of a Delta passenger living his dream as the only one on board his Delta flight from Aspen to Salt Lake City (or so he said). Even on that 292 mile regional jet hop it would have been a cool experience.

Seeing it described in a variety of media as being ‘like a private jet experience’ though reminded me that four years ago Delta announced elite upgrade opportunities to private jets. With their fleet of 66 private aircraft at the time, they were going to monetize down time and re-positioning flights with last minute upsell offers to fly private for $300 – $800.

This was covered widely across myriad media at the time. For instance,

It occurred to me that I never actually heard of anyone getting a Delta upgrade to a private jet so I asked the airline the status of the program.

  • Delta told me that “[w]hile this program did launch several years back, it is no longer in place.”

  • Delta confirmed that upgrade offer(s) “did happen.” Indeed, I found a Justin Bachman story about the first couple to secure the upgrade.

  • Tellingly though Delta wasn’t willing to say whether they ever provided private jet upgrades more than a total of five times. They confirmed, however, that it did not happen more than two dozen times.

Upselling customers to private jet travel when planes had to fly anyway was an interesting idea, Delta’s own take on Jetsmarter and other startups whose model has been to try to monetize spare private jet capacity. Those efforts have largely amounted to burning through a large amount of cash. It’s disappointing to learn, though, that given all of the hype surrounding the effort that it barely ever happened and died silently.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A Delta spokesman responded “We realized that we need to keep a laser-like focus on making SkyMiles as unrewarding as possible. We are committed to leading the way in ruining frequent flyer programs.”

  2. Doug, I’m surprised you think SkyMiles is worse than AA. Have you done any comparisons lately? AA is far worse than skypesos.

  3. How is the Delta private jet business doing? It seems a little like McDonald’s deciding to do a small steakhouse chain. I’m not sure the business is similar enough for there to be worthwhile synergies.

  4. So… I booked TODAY a 30,000 AA miles one way economy award ticket AMS – CLT via LHR and PHL, flying this Tuesday, i.e. 3 days from today. Not bad at all.

    This is for my son, while I am flying tomorrow on DL from CLT to San Jose via ATL, returning on Tuesday. I’m a lifetime Platinum Elite via Sky Blue and my upgrade position on all 4 segments is dead last. I’m also a DL million miler.

    I would say that AA delivers, and DL doesn’t give a rats *** regarding my status.

  5. @ CLTflyer – what a silly comparison. Delta has roundtrip redemptions to Europe for 22K+ miles.

    And, yes, Delta doesn’t care about a Flying Blue elite as much as they do about a Delta SkyMiles elite. The same would be the case of the tables being turned. At least Delta put you on an upgrade list. AFKL don’t even use upgrade lists…

    You have lifetime status on a different airline’s program and have achieved a million miles with Delta in the past. Congratulations. But you won’t be at the top of Delta’s current upgrade lists if you don’t currently and in the future fly Delta a lot, or fly their partners and credit Delta a lot.

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