The Story Of Delta’s First Private Jet “Upgrade”

Filed Under: Delta, Media

Last week I wrote about Delta’s really innovative new upgrade program. Most people don’t realize that Delta also has a private jet division, whereby they operate a fleet of 66 private jets.

It’s pretty common for private jets to fly without passengers as an “empty leg” segment. Basically a private jet might be in Washington but be booked out of New York the following day. So that flight from Washington to New York would be what’s known as an “empty leg” flight, and wouldn’t have any passengers.

What Delta is doing is offering select Medallion members upgrades to private jets. The day before departure, select Medallion members will be offered an upgrade at a cost of $300-800. The rollout of this will be limited, and it will be focused on Delta’s East Coast hubs. As a Medallion member I wouldn’t expect to see an offer like this any time soon, given how many Medallion members there are and how few opportunities there will be.

While not especially significant, in terms of “cute” media, Delta has shared the story of the first private jet upgrade flight which occurred this past Friday:

A Cincinnati couple became the first people to receive the ultimate in Delta upgrades: from commercial airplane to a private jet.

Bruce and Jeanette Rogovin are Delta SkyMiles Medallion members and were originally booked on a Delta flight from the Cincinnati airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, until they received an email the night before their Friday flight offering an upgrade to a private plane.

The couple, who were traveling to Atlanta to visit their son, were upgraded to a Falcon 2000, a large cabin jet that seats up to 10 passengers. They even had their own flight attendant, who provided them with complimentary champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and lunch during the flight.

The couple said they loved the roominess of the private jet.

“I would have to say that it was the most relaxing, enjoyable flight I’ve ever had,” Bruce Rogovin said. “From the lack of lines to the spacious, beautiful cabin, everything was truly enjoyable.”

Delta Private Jets President Erik Snell and David Sneed, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Delta Private Jets, were on hand in Cincinnati to greet the first passengers, and accompanied them on their flight.


I do find it sort of funny how the President and EVP/COO of Delta Private Jets invited themselves along for the ride. My assumption was that you get the whole jet to yourself — not that I’d complain, but I wouldn’t look at having them aboard as much of a perk. 😉

It is also really cool that this trip was taken by a couple. My assumption is that you can’t bring along guests when taking part in the private jet upgrade program, but perhaps they’re targeting mostly Medallion members who are traveling with companions, which I suppose would make sense. It frees up more seats on the commercial flight, increases the potential revenue they can earn for the flight, and also increases the number of people who will be “wowed.”


Anyway, this looks like a pretty awesome experience, so kudos to Delta on the innovation here, even if only a (very) limited number of people will ever have this opportunity.

What do you make of the Delta private jet upgrade program?

  1. I think it’s a brilliant move by Delta. Brings more potential clients to Delta Private Jets, and increases the value of the Medallion program. Skypesos as a currency still be worthless, but their program (provided you actually fly Delta) is still very strong.

  2. This is one hell of innovation on Deltas side. It offers a unique experience for their elites and they way they are keeping it exclusive and in a selecting phase makes the product much more valuable. I love the concept and what they are doing here. I am sure it will keep a lot of their highest elites to keep flying delta and regaining their highest status!

  3. Innovative? Maybe for the carrier. But for Delta Private Jets division a lot of customers are going to be wondering why they aren’t being offered the empty legs at steep discounts instead (especially since the program pricing already takes empty legs into account). I’d say this is a gamble that has the potential to alienate that unit’s core customers….offset by the remote chance that they convert some DL fliers into PJ fliers (which is mostly far fetched). As far as the suits taking the ride, that’s pretty standard procedure in the industry for what is, essentially, a demo flight.

  4. This first one doesn’t count. This one seems to be a PR trip to highlight this plan otherwise the Execs wouldn’t have been on board. Also these empty leg type of trips that other private jet firms offer typically only provide a seat selection like 1 to 6, etc. You don’t have to buy the whole jet but you might share it as well. I think they should offer the upgrade for no additional money if your already a top tier elite that happens to get lucky. I do agree that this is a smart PR move for Delta. They need it.

  5. This is just PR to distract from the negative press they have been getting about their terrible Skymiles devaluations.

  6. * OFF *

    Ben, have you ever tried to price a ticket via the oneworld “round the world” booking system? I’ve just tried it and it offers unexpectedly low prices! It has some restrictions but if I would purchase the same tickets then it would be significantly more expensive. I assume that this engine somehow tricks the airlines pricing system and you don’t pay premium for the one-way tickets. Could you please explain this to me? Or even better, could you please post a review about this?


  7. Three questions I have (and I think you can probably only answer #1):
    1. Lucky, you wrote “As a Medallion member I wouldn’t expect to see an offer like this any time soon…” Are you secretly a Medallion and you just aren’t telling us?
    2. Was the couple who was upgraded already booked in paid first class?
    3. How much did they have to pay to be upgraded?

  8. There are only 66 jets and perhaps tens of thousands of highest-level elites. That makes the possibility of getting an offer to fly on the jet more like winning the lottery. This sounds more like Delta’s opportunity to get some free press about their frequent flyer program at a time when they need it.

  9. Has Delta commented anywhere (e.g. FT) about criteria for deciding how they pick candidates for upgrades? Without some sort of a transparent system, I can imagine top-level elites being unhappy if they don’t get an upgrade offer every now and then.

  10. I wonder if the equipment, such as, the Falcon 2000 will be used on a consistent basis or not? I’m betting the private jet upgrade will be on products like the smaller cabin citation cj3 for example.

  11. This is a good move for Delta. A few questions though:

    Do you know about this before you get to the airport? Or do you get bussed somewhere last minute? (well not really bussed) also, the same question for when you arrive. Where did the couple deplane and were they connecting in ATL?
    It looks all nice and cozy in the summer but what about the cold of winter?
    If course you don’t get the plane to yourself. You might have to share it with ten other elites….gasp!

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of these flights end up being from CVG to another Delta hub…

  13. This program is worthless to the vast majority of business flyers who are supposedly delta’s high-value customers.

  14. Ben,

    I would expect in the future that larger private jets like the Falcon 200 will probably be full of Medallion upgrades as the schedule permits for travelers.

    As a commercial pilot myself, I’ve noticed that people often think that private jet means you have it all to yourself. That’s far from the truth especially with empty legs. On empty legs, you’re often flying with anyone else that can snag a good deal for the same departure time.

    I would also assume that if this couple had connected, they would have gone through TSA screening at ATL since neither themselves nor their bags were not screened at CVG.

    Maybe this program sounds amazing to travelers who have never peeked inside a private jet before but believe me, the second someone pays $800 for an upgrade, then finds themselves in the Lear 60 where they can’t stand fully upright, have a narrow reclining chair and have to share the cabin with 6 other upgrades, the reality that private jets aren’t all glitz and glamor will finally set in.

    This is about making DL money and they’ll be happy to pack those small jets full of people with the hook of making people feel rich and famous for 3 hours. It’s a brilliant move on their part.

  15. I notice nobody says anything except “Medallion”. Why not which level?

    If they are 360, it wouldn’t motivate the Diamond crowd.

  16. Of course, the best thing about flying private is NO TSA!

    Sitting in a Cessna 172 on a taxiway in the summer can be brutal, but being able to drive up to the airport and be in the air in <10 minutes is phenomenal and the view is much better.

  17. Does United or American have private jet divisions? Or some relationship with a private jet company? If not, it seems like they will shortly. It seems like everybody wins in this situation. Delta gets more cash, passengers jet a private jet experience and a few people get bumped up to first from steerage.

  18. So, my guess is that they’ll be trying to fill these things to capacity. That’s maximum utilization after all. As for companions, the upgrades aren’t free and fill an otherwise empty seat, so I imagine that as long as they’re in the record locator, they’ll be included. Also, the itn will be looked at so as to not offer this to flyers with tight connections.

  19. Ben, do you think a Medallion member would receive ORC, ensuring they do not lose out on the MQMs?

  20. I’m not really familiar with Delta but flying in private jets or private airplanes beats commercial flights every time. Like @AlexS said: NO TSA!

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