Delta Air Lines, Inc has announced that its wholly owned private jet subsidiary, Delta Air Elite, will now operate under the new brand of Delta Private Jets. The rebranding, says the airline, demonstrates Delta’s continued investment in and commitment to the private jet business. Executive & VIP Aviation International (EVA) speaks to Jim Segrave (JS), President, Delta Private Jets
The rebranding is the latest in a series of investments Delta has made in its private charter operation this year. In January, Delta Private Jets doubled the size of its fleet with the acquisition of Kinston, NC-based Segrave Aviation, a jet charter and jet management company, and an innovator in online booking and flight management technology. In June, Delta Private Jets introduced the Air Elite Card, which offers high-value customers several exclusive benefits, including the ability to book on-demand private jet service and commercial flights in a single call using a pre-paid Air Elite account. Throughout the year, the company added nine of the most popular aircraft to its fleet – two Learjet 31A, three Beechjet 400A light jets, one Learjet 60, one Citation Excel, and two Citation X super-midsize jets. We find out what else is going on.
EVA Is the rebranding designed to tie the private jet operation closer to the airline? Is it simply a better name or is there significant strategic thinking behind it?
JS Yes on both counts. Delta Private Jets is a better name because it more clearly communicates what we do, and yes, the rebranding is designed to align the private jet operation closer to the airline. We want customers to see Delta Private Jets as an integrated part of Delta’s overall offerings to its best customers. Very few people fly private jets exclusively – they sometimes fly commercial and they sometimes fly private. Delta is uniquely positioned to offer these customers a seamless, quality air travel experience with unmatched flexibility and rewards.
EVA What does Segrave Aviation bring to the table? Is it being fully integrated into the Delta Private Jets operation or does it operate as a stand-alone subsidiary? Other than instant growth, does it also bring other skill sets such as repair services and other charter products?
JS Since the acquisition in January of this year, Segrave Aviation is fully integrated into Delta Private Jets. The combination brings together two of the most highly capable teams in private aviation. The acquisition did more than increase the size of the fleet – it combined Delta’s award-winning customer service and experience in the private jet and jet card market with Segrave’s leadership in information technology, online flight management and charter operations. It has truly been a partnership that built upon strengths.
EVA Growth has also come from Delta Private Jets itself with the extra Learjets, Beechjets and Citations added to your management programme. Is this as a result of aircraft owners seeking more efficient ways of managing their assets or as a consequence of you actively seeking out specific aircraft types to cater to particular parts of the private charter market?
JS We’ve had a surge in inquiries from aircraft owners over the last two years. It just makes sense because they can reduce their operating expenses without impacting their own use by putting the plane on a charter certificate with us when they’re not flying. We are very selective about the aircraft we add – it has to be a type that will attract charter revenue. We explore all opportunities to create a mutual benefit to both partners and aircraft owner but the fact is that we turn down more opportunities than we accept.
EVA Is a diversified fleet the answer to successful private charter operations? Can you operate a more streamlined fleet in terms of the number of aircraft types and still satisfy the market? Does a diversified fleet simply tie in with charter customer demand in a way that a two-type fleet, for example, cannot?
JS We believe a diversified fleet is important to a successful private charter operation. Having a large, diverse pool of desirable aircraft enables us to better meet a range of customer needs at a competitive cost.
EVA Do you still own four aircraft and is aircraft ownership part of your strategy going forward?
JS We have 43 aircraft on our charter operating certificate and access to hundreds more through our network of approved charter operators. We own __ of those aircraft. While ownership is still part of our strategy, we believe aircraft management currently represents a better path for adding to our fleet.
EVA A year ago, Delta AirElite told us that aircraft owners and fractional owners as well as flight departments have famously been reviewing their need to own aircraft, which has had a positive impact on well positioned charter operations like yours. One year on, does that dynamic still apply or are we moving into a new phase of the market?
JS The shift we saw a year ago has accelerated and we have benefited from it. There is always going to be a segment of the market that prefers fractional ownership, but the growth is in jet cards and charter. Private jet users like the flexibility and the lower level of commitment, and many past and current fractional jet owners are going that route.
EVA Are your products still evolving or are they now crystallised?
JS We’re always looking for ways to improve our customer experience, even though our award-winning service indicates we’ve been doing a good job of that. We think we now offer the best jet card package in the industry, but we will look for ways to enhance it. We’ve now made it easy for customers to get a guaranteed quote for a charter trip on our website, and we continue to look for ways to make that experience even better.
EVA In which ways does the airline’s strategy dovetail with that of the private charter business in terms of routes/locations, hubs, IT initiatives, frequent flyer programmes, etc?
JS We are adding tremendous value through the integration of Delta Private Jets and Delta Air Lines. Probably the best example is in how we have created/introduced our Air Elite Jet Card. To mention just of few of the benefits related to the integration, cardholders now receive:
- 20% savings on qualifying Delta mainline flights when booked in conjunction with a Delta Private Jets flight segment.
- Sufficient Delta SkyMiles towards two complimentary Premium Class Delta tickets upon purchase or renewal of the Air Elite Jet Card.
- Immediate complimentary SkyMiles Diamond Medallion status, including Delta Sky Club membership, mileage bonuses and unlimited complimentary upgrades.
- Delta Private Jets’ award-winning concierge service and Sky Priority benefits on Delta Air Lines flights that include priority check-in, boarding and, expedited security and baggage service.
- Choice of a light, midsize or large cabin private jet or airline service on a trip-by-trip basis.
You can see how the private charter operation and commercial travel businesses complement each other nicely.