From its humble start, like its parent in the commercial segment, Delta Private Jets is now a power player in jet cards

I’m surprised how many subscribers, virtually all who currently fly privately aren’t familiar with Delta Private Jets, didn’t know they sell jet cards or had some other misperception. It could be that while it’s an asset to trade on such a powerful brand as Delta, it also makes it harder to make a name for yourself and stand apart from the mother ship.

History and Ownership

Delta Private Jets (DPJ) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, so it has behind it a parent that over the past four years posted over $24 billion in pre-tax profits.

Delta Private Jets

DPJ traces its roots to near Cincinnati-based regional airline, Comair, which was later acquired by Delta. In 2001, Comair’s private jet division, Comair Jet Express, was rebranded Delta Air Elite, and then in 2010, it became Delta Private Jets.

From 2001 until today the fleet has grown from 10 private jets to around 40 in 2014 and 70 today ranging from light jets to large and long-range jets, including a Gulfstream GV. Today, DPJ has over 400 employees, but compare that to over 80,000 for the entire company and over 800 aircraft.

Overview

While DPJ may be an incidental part of the bigger company that clocked more than $40 billion in sales in 2018, it also seems to be an integral part. Despite shuffling various Delta executives through the DPJ corner office, it appears clear that the private jet service is viewed as an important part of the airline’s overall offering.

Over the past several years moves such as allowing members of the SkyMiles program to use points to purchase private jet travel, providing DPJ jet card buyers top-level Diamond Medallion status on the airline, and even offering Porsche transfers between private jet and commercial flights seem to show the desire to have synergy. It’s believed the airline’s corporate sales team can also sell DPJ services.

Delta Private Jets prices

While like nearly all operators, DPJ goes off-fleet from time to time, its offering is based on on a floating fleet of around 70 managed aircraft. There is Wifi across the fleet, and pets are welcome. All light jets have a fully enclosed lavatory. According to its website, the core of the fleet is 31 midsize jets, mainly Citation Excel/XLS types and a smattering of Lear 60s.

The Jet Cards

DPJ has two membership programs, its Delta Private Jets Card and Sky Access, an empty leg program that also offers fixed rate pay-as-you-go whole aircraft pricing.

Delta Private Jets Card

You pay a deposit, starting at $150,000 and then funds are deducted as you fly. You choose the cabin category you want for each flight at published rates, and there are no interchange fees. When one considers how complicated airlines make things, DPJ’s cards are among the most transparent in the world of jet cards.

As of May 2019, Federal Excise Tax (FET) inclusive rates start at $5,873 per hour for light jets, $7,356 for midsize, $9,661 for super-midsize and $13,927 for large cabin. Surcharges for flying to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Caribbean range from 7 to 17%.

(Editor’s note: Since we published this article, DPJ tells us they are no longer releasing fixed pricing – all pricing needs to be negotiated on a one-off basis.)

Last year DPJ increased its minimum deposit by $50,000 and no longer publishes the discounts if you want to buy in at higher amounts than the minimum. Previously it had published a rate card that went up to $1,000,000. It’s unclear if there is an internal rate card or if it’s negotiated on a case by case basis.

You get guaranteed availability and a lead-time for reservations of 24 hours (120 hours on 10 peak days) and there are no blackout days, there’s a two-year rate lock and your deposit is refundable. Deicing is included, and the minimum for light and midsize cabin categories is 72 minutes, while super midsize is 90 minutes, and large cabin 120 minutes, including taxi time.

There’s a modest 10% discount for qualifying roundtrips and cross-country discounts that range from 10-to-15%. Peak day surcharge is a reasonable 5%. You can use multiple aircraft off a single account except for peak days, so DPJ is really well positioned for businesses or families that need multiple planes at the same time.

You can cancel up to 24 hours (120 hours on peak days), so it’s one of the few places where DPJ while near best in class has competitors with shorter windows.

SkyAccess

As a disclaimer, I’m a member of SkyAccess, having purchased my membership on a one-day Cyber Monday sale last November for $5,000. The program offers an all you can fly buffet of empty legs for $6,000 per year, plus a $2,500 initiation fee. I’ve flown about 10 so far.

You get the entire aircraft and while there are lots of micro repositioning flights from Teterboro to White Plains and the like, there are also quite a few nice ones like Chicago to Aspen or Miami to New Orleans, Charleston, and Key West.

In a very transparent manner, you can view all of the empty legs for the previous 90 days which will give you a good idea of whether or not you would be able to benefit. Flights are typically posted the day of or day before.

You also get FET inclusive fixed one-way rates of $5,995 per hour (light cabin), $7,950 (midsize cabin), $10,995 (super midsize), and $14,400 (large cabin) with the same minimums as DPJ cardholders.

Safety

Delta Private Jets is IS-BAO Stage 3, Argus Platinum, and Wyvern Wingman. It’s the triple crown of safety when it comes to business aviation. DPJ is also a popular place for pilots who see it as an entry point into the airline. Pilot in Command (PIC) requires 3,000 hours total time, 2,000 hours PIC, 1,000 turbine experience, Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license, and First Class Medical. I’ve spoken to several owners who have their planes in DPJ and they give the company high marks.

Delta Private Jets Selling Points

– Industry leading safety standards

– Minimal peak days and peak day surcharge

– Deicing included

– Refundable

– 24-month rate lock

– Ability to choose cabin type per trip at contracted rates (no interchange fees)

– Fully enclosed lavs on light jets

– WiFi on fleet

– Pets welcome

– Call-out of 24 hours for non-peak days

Shortcomings

– 72-minute minimums on light and midsize inclusive taxi time are higher than some other comparable options (60 minutes). If you are doing a lot of flights 60 minutes or less, use Private Jet Card Comparisons’ exclusive Quick Compare Flight Pricing to compare all-in pricing.

– There’s a 17% surcharge for Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico with a few exceptions.

– On peak days, large cabin seating is only guaranteed at 9 instead of 10. Midsize jets are guaranteed for 7 passengers instead of 8.

– The complimentary snacks onboard have the feeling that the came straight off the shelves of a 7-Eleven.

Toss-Ups

– If you are flying light and midsize jets, make sure you like Citation CJ2/3 and Citation Excel/XLS types. They dominate those categories.

– DPJ raised its rates last year. It’s not the cheapest, yet far from the most expensive. Still, nobody likes to pay more. It definitely caused at least some members to take a look at what else is out there.

Final Thoughts

Delta Private Jets is one of the three most purchased programs by the subscribers of Private Jet Card Comparisons, probably because it meets the needs subscribers highlight as being the most important, which are safety, flexibility, pricing, service, and value.

Overall, it’s easy to understand and one of the most straightforward programs. The $150,000 entry point while on the higher side is in a way mitigated that there is a refund option.

If you fly commercially and can benefit from Diamond Medallion Status, subscribers tell me that is a tiebreaker. There’s also the assurance of parent Delta’s financial stability and reputation for safety.

From time to time DPJ has offered various promotions. The best we’ve seen was certificates for two free business class tickets to Europe (in December 2017). Like with any provider, it’s always worth asking about any sweeteners that can be offered to close the deal.

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About the Author Doug Gollan

I am Founder and Editor of Private Jet Card Comparisons, the only independent buyer's guide to jet card membership programs, and DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly luxury travel e-newsletter for private jet owners. I am also a contributor to Forbes.com