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Delta sells Private Jets division to Wheels Up

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Delta Air Lines is getting out of the private jet business.

The Atlanta-based carrier has operated its own private fleet out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) for decades, and it announced Thursday that it’s selling the division off charter company Wheels Up. The sale was first reported by Bloomberg.

“We’ve never been able to leverage and garner the type of marketing power and brand that a Wheels Up will provide,” Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian told Bloomberg. “It got lost under Delta’s umbrella somewhat and was never able to attract the type of sales and marketing dollars needed to create a separate platform.”

The new combined company will have a fleet of almost 200 aircraft. Wheels Up has around 115 aircraft in its fleet and about 6,000 members in its network. It also has a strong online presence, with community forums that aid customers in coordinating shared flights.

Wheels Up Light and Midsize Jet. Photo courtesy Wheels Up.
Wheels Up Light and Midsize Jet. Photo courtesy Wheels Up.

Founded in 2013, the company bills itself as a private aviation membership company and is one of a recent crop of start-up charter outfits. Wheels Up allows members to book flights on an on-demand basis, including via an app that allows customers to pool costs with other customers booking overlapping trips.

“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,” Bastian said in a statement.

Further details of the combined company’s structure will be released after the deal closes, likely in early 2020, and until then the two companies will continue normal operations. Delta will maintain an equity stake in Wheels Up as part of the deal.

Featured image courtesy of Delta Private Jets.

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