Frequent Flyer

Delta Offers Elites the Ultimate Upgrade, to a Private Jet

Beginning as soon as this week, Medallion members of Delta’s SkyMiles program will be offered the option to upgrade their Delta flights to a private jet service.

With Delta’s new-for-2015 revenue-based loyalty program, the airline has made its marketing priorities clear: Plenty of miles and upgrades for its most profitable customers; very little for the other 98 percent.

That theme was reiterated with yesterday’s reveal of the latest perk reserved for elite-level members of Delta’s SkyMiles program. As soon as this week, Medallion members will be offered the option to upgrade their Delta flights to a private jet service.

According to the airline: “Private travel offers concierge-level services that Delta’s premium customers are sure to appreciate… This is an innovative way for us to thank valued Delta customers for their loyalty.”

The upgrade service will be operated in conjunction with Delta’s Private Jets subsidiary, which provides small-jet service to the corporate market and to wealthy individuals. The company maintains a fleet of 66 jets, from eight-passenger Cessna CJ3’s to 16-passenger Gulfstream G650’s.

The SkyMiles upgrades will only be offered at times and locations when the Private Jets aircraft would otherwise be idle. When a private jet is available, the Medallion member will be contacted and offered the opportunity to switch from his scheduled Delta flight to a private-jet flight, for a surcharge ranging from $300 to $800.

The jet-available nature of the service means that, in practice, very few Delta customers will actually be favored with the option to upgrade. And presumably, when a private jet is available at a particular time and airport, priority will be given to SkyMiles members with the highest-level elite status. So while the perk may be theoretically available to all elite members, Silver and Gold members aren’t likely to ever find themselves flying private.

Reader Reality Check

Will you be among the select few offered a private-jet upgrade? If you were, would you pay between $300 and $800 for the experience?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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