[Avionics Today 01-29-2016] Following a record year in 2015 for Jet Card and charter sales, Delta Private Jets (DPJ) is looking to build on that momentum with major fleet expansion and investments in 2016. Avionics Magazine recently caught up with several of the Delta Air Lines subsidiary's executives to discuss plans for new aircraft purchases, Wi-Fi investment and fleet expansion over the next year.
Delta Private Jets MRO hangar. Photo: Delta Private Jets.
In 2015, DPJ's managed fleet increased from 53 to 72 total aircraft to become the third largest Part 135 operator in the U.S. in terms of fleet size. Jet Card sales were up 31 percent over 2014, and DPJ flew its first flight in which a Delta Air Lines commercial passenger upgraded to a chartered private jet flight, a concept that the company will look to expand on going forward.
"You will see us put an emphasis on larger cabin aircraft along the lines of the [Gulfstream] G-IV, G-V and G550. The Falcon 900 is an aircraft we’re very interested in as well. We plan to make an announcement within the next few weeks in regards to our onboard amenities, etc., on the business aircraft. Our new offering is going to be far superior than any other fleet equipped with just Wi-Fi onboard. We’re still working through some of the contractual stuff, but it is going to be an awesome fleet as far as what we have onboard," David Sneed, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Delta Private Jets, told Avionics Magazine.
In 2015, DPJ saw a huge spike in Jet Card sales. Launched in 2010, the Jet Card allows customers to submit a prepaid amount and then pay an hourly rate for the time required for their selected trips. Jet Cards start at a $100,000 down payment and provide access to DPJ's fleet of managed and owned aircraft. Instead of owning or partially owning an aircraft, the Jet Card provides access to an aircraft that meets the nautical range and flight operational needs of each cardholder for each individually planned trip.
"If you think about it as a travel solution, the Jet Card allows you to put down a quarter million or half a million or whatever your level of need is, dial up with as little as 10 hours notice and take you where you need to go," said Brad Blettner, vice president of sales and marketing. "The Jet Card marketplace has a lot of iterations out there what you’ve seen recently are some new entrants. We’ve prided ourselves on being very transparent on our hourly rate: no hidden fees, no hidden agendas, no gotchas, there’s a lot of certainties. If you look at other programs, especially those that have a membership fee attached, the hourly rate that gets promoted, but there are also additional fees, questions about how much access you really have. If you don’t advertise the hourly fee with the membership rate, your rate is actually higher, so you have to fly more to get a lower rate."
According to Blettner, the Jet Card has also served as a platform to further leverage the advantage that DPJ has of being a subsidiary of Delta, an airline with 809 mainline aircraft that flies to 328 destinations in 57 countries on six continents.
DPJ's MRO center also had a busy year in 2015, focusing on upgrading the managed fleet with new exterior paint and refurbished cabin interior alongside new Wi-Fi capabilities. James Murray, vice president of operations for DPJ, told Avionics Magazine that onboard Wi-Fi has increasingly become a focus for both DPJ and its customers.
"What we’re seeing on the Wi-Fi side, [is that] it has almost become an expectation of our customers. Being part of the Delta brand, customers have come to expect that on the Delta fleet. We’re expanding it so they have a consistent level of service on the DPJ fleet," said Murray.
Currently, DPJ features Gogo connectivity onboard its fleet of Cessna, Hawker, Bombardier and Dassault aircraft. Both Murray and Sneed say the goal moving forward is to convert the current offering into more of a premium platform.
"We’re looking to find ways to make the Wi-Fi product on DPJ aircraft a premium product and our customers yield that benefit. The interesting thing that Wi-Fi allows us to do is to facilitate communications between the crew and our flight operations crew downstairs, so we can do real-time updating for any customer needs, logistical challenges, diversions, anything like that. We have the ability to communicate with our operations center in real time now as opposed to the time-honored tradition of coordinating through radio patch and air traffic control," said Murray.
Currently, DPJ is considering further enhancements to the aircraft Wi-Fi capabilities that will allow the operations team to further expand its use of onboard Internet for capabilities, such as trend monitoring in real time on the aircraft.
By the end of 2016, Sneed expects DPJ to further expand its fleet size from the current 73 aircraft on certificate to a total of 95 aircraft by the end of the year, with a focus on large cabin long-range business jets.