Delta Invests In Joby Aviation, Electric Air Taxis

Delta Invests In Joby Aviation, Electric Air Taxis

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Following in the footsteps of American Airlines and United Airlines, Delta Air Lines is the latest US airline to invest in the electric air taxi dream.

Delta partners with Joby Aviation on electric air taxis

Delta has announced a partnership with Joby Aviation, to “deliver transformational, sustainable home-to-airport transportation service” to Delta customers, initially in New York and Los Angeles. As part of this, Delta will be making an upfront equity investment of $60 million, with a total investment of up to $200 million as further milestones are achieved.

Joby Aviation is working on creating all-electric, vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, to enable city-to-airport service by air. Delta claims this partnership will allow the airline to deliver a premium, differentiated service for Delta customers alongside Joby Aviation’s standard airport service.

Delta is calling this a first-of-its-kind arrangement, as the companies will integrate Joby Aviation’s operated services into Delta’s customer-facing channels, providing customers who travel with Delta the opportunity to reserve a seat for seamless journeys to & from the airport when booking Delta travel.

While it’s not mentioned in Delta’s press release, Joby Aviation hopes to operate its first commercial service by 2024, potentially making it one of the first eVTOL operates to launch. The company is the first eVTOL company to be granted a G-1 (Stage 4) Certification Basis by the FAA, and also recently received Part 135 Air Carrier Certification.

The partnership between Delta and Joby Aviation is mutually exclusive across the United States and United Kingdom for five years following commercial launch.

Here’s how Delta CEO, Ed Bastian, described this development:

“Delta always looks forward and embraces opportunities to lead the future, and we’ve found in Joby a partner that shares our pioneering spirit and commitment to delivering innovative, seamless experiences that are better for our customers, their journeys, and our world. This is a groundbreaking opportunity for Delta to deliver a time-saving, uniquely premium home-to-airport solution for customers in key markets we’ve been investing and innovating in for many years.”

Why I struggle with electric air taxis

Delta is the last of the “big three” US airlines to get into the electric air taxi game. To Delta’s credit:

  • The airline is at least partnering with a company that could very well be first to offer commercial service, if this whole concept does become a reality
  • Unlike American and United, Delta isn’t actually ordering any of these planes, but rather is making it clear that flights will be operated by Joby Aviation, and will be integrated into Delta booking channels

I promise I’m not trying to be a crusty downer, but I just can’t bring myself to get excited about this, at least in terms of thinking that this will somehow transform the process of getting to & from the airport. This announcement is about as exciting to me as when Etihad announced it would start selling NFTs (hint: I’m not excited).

If you look at the concept and technology of electric air taxis in a vacuum, sure, they’re totally cool. It’s awesome to have electric planes that can take off and land vertically, as they’re essentially like modern day helicopters. These planes have performed test flights, so we know they can fly.

However, I fail to see how this is useful in improving the overall transportation ecosystem. Airlines claim to be committed to achieving net zero emissions in the coming decades, yet the solutions they’re investing in are only useful for the most well-to-do travelers.

The way I view it, these electric air taxis could potentially replace helicopters, and that’s a good thing, since these are more environmentally friendly. NYC-area airports probably have the most helicopter service, yet what percent of travelers arrive at airports by helicopter? 0.1%? Or is that too high?

I don’t see how eVTOL service could be expanded significantly beyond the current footprint of helicopters, given how congested the skies are, especially around major airports. That doesn’t even factor in other concerns, like the general pilot shortage, actually getting full certification from the FAA, etc.

If airlines are going to get into the business of getting people to and from the airport, I’d love to see solutions that are actually useful to a large percentage of travelers. But that gets at a whole different issue of the horrible public transportation infrastructure at so many major US airports.

Is this the future of transportation to & from the airport?

Bottom line

Delta is investing at least $60 million in Joby Aviation, and potentially up to $200 million. Joby Aviation is working on developing electric air taxis, which the company hopes to have in service by 2024. Delta plans to offer this service in New York and Los Angeles, and integrate this service into the company’s own booking channels.

Personally I’d be shocked if this kind of product is in service by 2024, but maybe I’m just a pessimist.

What do you make of Delta’s Joby Aviation investment?

Conversations (8)
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  1. Tim Dunn Diamond

    There's nothing any more or less environmentally friendly or harmful with electric air taxis than there is with electric cars. Electricity has to be generated someplace and someone(s) think having a power plant a little further from a city is better than polluting cars in the city.

    the FAA is working on the entire ATC issue. Airspace around airports is generally divided up in areas that line with runways. just as with helicopters today, there...

    There's nothing any more or less environmentally friendly or harmful with electric air taxis than there is with electric cars. Electricity has to be generated someplace and someone(s) think having a power plant a little further from a city is better than polluting cars in the city.

    the FAA is working on the entire ATC issue. Airspace around airports is generally divided up in areas that line with runways. just as with helicopters today, there will be areas where air taxis can approach airports but, yes, it will likely involve air traffic controllers.

    Air tax companies inclulding Joby are working on a network of landing zones in NYC and the LA area, typically on parking garages that have recharging areas for their planes.

    First and business class cabins are outside of the reach of most people but it doesn't stop airlines from offering them or consumers from buying them. not even WN has a truly equal product for everyone since you can buy your way to the front of their cattle car boarding process if you so choose.

    It is more telling that DL passed on zoom - which is now dead - but decided urban air mobility has potential. And they could have an advantage if Joby launches first, which is likely.

    1. Mark Guest

      Zoom is nonsense, but so is EVTOL. Be assured, Delta’s win here is a press release showing them to join this particular bandwagon (after AA, UA, and of course—JetBlue—which has the distinction of investing in Joby before it SPAC’d itself.) Unfortunately, it does seem Delta is putting some money in. Foolish IMHO compared to their competitors.

      The chance that Joby will certify and launch in 2024 is near 0. The chance that there will one...

      Zoom is nonsense, but so is EVTOL. Be assured, Delta’s win here is a press release showing them to join this particular bandwagon (after AA, UA, and of course—JetBlue—which has the distinction of investing in Joby before it SPAC’d itself.) Unfortunately, it does seem Delta is putting some money in. Foolish IMHO compared to their competitors.

      The chance that Joby will certify and launch in 2024 is near 0. The chance that there will one day—in the next decade—be thousands (or even hundreds) of these things flying over NY and LA is near absolute 0.

      Even if Joby does launch sometime in the next 8 years, DL will find—like “air taxi” ventures before—that demand for air travel to the airport far outstrips demand for air travel from the airport.

  2. DLPTATL Guest

    I get LA & NYC are congested and have wealthy travelers, but they also have really crowded airspace. Why not launch in places where airports are further from the "main attractions" and the airspace isn't over-crowded. Thinking seasonal routes like - SLC to Deer Valley, BOS to Martha's Vineyard, DEN to Vail/Breckenridge, etc. I guess I don't know how far they can travel, what kind of load they can carry, and what kind of weather they'll be able to handle.

  3. Never In Doubt Guest

    I’m waiting for a Jetson car shuttle, where I get encased in my own clear bubble and dropped directly at my terminal/home.

  4. NSS Guest

    How does this actually work? I live in Manhattan, fly into LGA and JFK, mostly LGA. So in the crazy crowded skies over NYC, and on the crazy crowded and space-constrained LGA property, there are going to be hundreds of Jobys waiting to take off from somewhere? Which terminal? How do I get there? Can I use it with checked baggage? Where does it land, on the roof of my apartment building? How many flights...

    How does this actually work? I live in Manhattan, fly into LGA and JFK, mostly LGA. So in the crazy crowded skies over NYC, and on the crazy crowded and space-constrained LGA property, there are going to be hundreds of Jobys waiting to take off from somewhere? Which terminal? How do I get there? Can I use it with checked baggage? Where does it land, on the roof of my apartment building? How many flights per day does DL have at LGA? Times 100 people. Who's hiring hundreds more ATC people to manage these planes?

    The Port Authority can barely manage the yellow taxi line and a place for Ubers - so now they're gonna do this also?

    I get the marketing benefits. I just don't see it ever happening at scale.

    1. Santos Guest

      It's just another fantasy cash grab to separate fools and their money. Anyone with critical thinking can see this is not the paradigm shift that revolutionary innovation requires. It's just an incremental adjustment of an unworkable angle. Same with SST, same with Hyperloop. But hey, common sense is so 20th century.

  5. Doug Guest

    As with all of these investments, they are simply marketing. Delta will get more than $60 million worth of free press and good will ("Delta cares about the environment!") while realizing that getting an actual return on that investment is unlikely. The idea that these aircraft are buzzing around NYC in 18-24 months is hilarious. The odds of that are next to zero.

    1. Delta flyer Guest

      I doubt they will realize anywhere near that level of intangible benefit, but having no accountability for wasting money is the point and that is the era of corporate mismanagement we are living in. Remember the money flushed on this BS the next time there is a strike, labor action, or your flight is delayed for six hours because it is one flight attendant short.

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NSS Guest

How does this actually work? I live in Manhattan, fly into LGA and JFK, mostly LGA. So in the crazy crowded skies over NYC, and on the crazy crowded and space-constrained LGA property, there are going to be hundreds of Jobys waiting to take off from somewhere? Which terminal? How do I get there? Can I use it with checked baggage? Where does it land, on the roof of my apartment building? How many flights per day does DL have at LGA? Times 100 people. Who's hiring hundreds more ATC people to manage these planes? The Port Authority can barely manage the yellow taxi line and a place for Ubers - so now they're gonna do this also? I get the marketing benefits. I just don't see it ever happening at scale.

2
Doug Guest

As with all of these investments, they are simply marketing. Delta will get more than $60 million worth of free press and good will ("Delta cares about the environment!") while realizing that getting an actual return on that investment is unlikely. The idea that these aircraft are buzzing around NYC in 18-24 months is hilarious. The odds of that are next to zero.

1
Delta flyer Guest

I doubt they will realize anywhere near that level of intangible benefit, but having no accountability for wasting money is the point and that is the era of corporate mismanagement we are living in. Remember the money flushed on this BS the next time there is a strike, labor action, or your flight is delayed for six hours because it is one flight attendant short.

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