Delta Air Lines announced last week that it has signed an agreement with Wheels Up that will make it the private aviation provider’s largest stakeholder. In exchange, the airline offered up its aircraft charter/management subsidiary Delta Private Jets (DPJ) and a long-term commercial partnership. With the transaction expected to close shortly, it will create one of the industry’s largest owned and managed fleets of private aircraft. Delta Private Jets has a fleet of more than 70 managed business aircraft, while Wheels Up has an owned fleet of more than 115 Textron Aviation turboprop twins and jets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed and Delta said more details will be announced after the transaction closes.
Wheels Up founder and CEO Kenny Dichter will continue leading the Wheels Up management team as the partnership grows between the two companies. “Six and a half years in, it’s incredibly validating to have a company that has Delta’s reputation and position in the market and in the world being shoulder-to-shoulder with us,” Dichter told AIN, adding that he reaffirms his company’s longstanding partnership with Gama Aviation. He noted Gama pilots would continue to fly the Wheels Up fleet.
Under the proposed agreement, DPJ would continue to operate under its Part 135 certificate, which Dichter said could be used to develop aircraft management services at Wheels Up. “DPJ is a dynamic platform,” he explained. “Growing the aircraft management business and adding more assets to the platform is absolutely in our forward plan.”
A Delta spokeswoman confirmed that DPJ’s customers and fleets will continue to operate with no customer interruption.
“This groundbreaking partnership will democratize private aviation, making the convenience of private jet travel accessible to more consumers,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “Wheels Up’s lifestyle experiences and innovative digital platform, combined with the scale and service of Delta Private Jets, helps further Delta’s mission of connecting people and communities worldwide through travel.”