Delta Air Lines passengers might soon* be riding to the airport above traffic on a Joby eVTOL flight. The two companies announced an agreement in which Delta takes an equity stake in Joby, and gains access to the planned commuter operations.
The companies describe it as a “transformational, sustainable home-to-airport transportation service” to be launched first in New York and Los Angeles. Expansion into the UK market is also expected, based on terms of the deal.
“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.”– Delta CEO Ed Bastian
The deal also includes a mutual exclusivity clause. Delta will be the exclusive airline partner for Joby in the US and UK, while Joby will be the exclusive eVTOL partner for Delta. The exclusivity comes in the cooperation “to create a differentiated, premium experience for Delta customers featuring seamless booking, simplified transit and greater time savings.” This premium service will run in parallel to Joby’s standard operations for other travelers.
Unlike some other electric aircraft manufacturers, Joby intends to operate its fleet directly rather than selling the aircraft to another operator. Those operations will accept all passengers, not just travelers flying onward with Delta.
United Airlines invested in eVTOL from Archer, though it plans to operate them via one of its regional airline partners. It is similar to the Joby model in that it involves purchasing capacity from the third party, but also different in that it could own and operate the planes. American’s position with Vertical Aerospace similarly involves it owning the planes.
Despite the tease in the press release, Delta and Joby have no intention of the service operating to a traveler’s home. Passengers will be expected to drive to a vertiport where they can board the eVTOL and continue to the airport. Today in the New York City area the first destinations would likely be the heliports on the Hudson and East Rivers, for example. Other options could also be developed, either at smaller local airfields or in new facilities, built out specifically to support the services.
Despite the promise of lower noise profiles than helicopters, new construction options will still need to deal with local planning ordinances and integration into the national airspace.
The deal also sees Delta investing $60 million in Joby and securing a seat on the Board of Directors. Delta holds warrants to invest another $140 million in two $70 million tranches priced at $10 and $12/share.
Joby recently received its Part 135 Air Carrier Certification, allowing it to operate commercial flights with passengers. It gained that certification with a traditional aircraft. Once the eVTOL is certified it will transition that to the certificate to be able to market the services.
*Within a few years, if things go extremely well on the certification front with the FAA.
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