Sick of the long Uber ride from the airport? Delta Airlines plans to eliminate land-based transport and instead deliver passengers straight to their doorsteps by air. The airline calls its partnership with eVTOL maker Joby Aviation a “first-of-its-kind arrangement” to create a seamless travel experience.
Delta’s statement today was short on details, mostly because Joby’s S4 electric aircraft isn’t scheduled to be certified until 2024, and there is no existing infrastructure, or vertiport system, to handle landing and takeoff. But Delta’s so confident in the arrangement that it has invested US$60 million into Joby, with the option to increase that to another US$140 million if certain milestones are reached.
The statement noted that Delta passengers traveling to New York and Los Angeles can reserve seats on Joby’s local flights.
“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 in for many years,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian in the statement.
Delta is the latest airline to plant its flag in the fledgling but fast-growing eVTOL landscape. In July, American Airlines committed to purchasing 50 eVTOL aircraft from UK-based Vertical Aerospace as part of a pre-order of 250 aircraft, with the option of 200 more.
Vertical’s VX4 aircraft has received 1,400 pre-orders from airlines all over the world. Virgin Atlantic, Iberojet, Japan Arilines, AirAsia and GOL have all signed up to purchase the VX4. Certification is scheduled for 2025.
In August, United announced a US$10-million deposit for 100 of Archer Aviation’s Midnight eVTOLs, which are scheduled to be certified in 2024. A month later, the airline said it plans to order 200 more eVTOLs from Embraer’s Eve division, with the option to purchase 200 more. United is also investing US$15 million in the Eve.
The eVTOL startup has also partnered with airlines in Australia, Dubai, Kenya and with US airlines Republic Airways and SkyWest.
The terms between Joby and Delta are unique since aircraft purchases are not part of the agreement. Instead, Joby will serve as a contractor, providing air transportation within its local networks. Delta said the partnership would be “mutually exclusive” for five years following the commercial launch. It did not specify a date.