Delta expands private jet operation

Delta Air Lines' private jet subsidiary, Delta AirElite, is buying Segrave Aviation, nearly doubling the size of its own fleet.

Atlanta-based Delta said the all-cash acquisition of Kinston, N.C.-based Segrave will add 21 aircraft to AirElite's fleet of 24 planes. It will also improve Web bookings and other options for customers of Delta AirElite, which is based in Cincinnati.

In a written statement, Delta's vice president of corporate strategy and business development, Wayne Aaron, cited Segrave's "leadership in online flight management and operations control" as a benefit of the acquisition. Delta did not say how much it is paying.

Delta AirElite, a charter operator, caters to "high-value customers," such as business owners or those who live in places without many options for commercial flights. It also offers frequent flier benefits on Delta. Delta said it is the only U.S.-based airline with commercial and private jet service.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said the AirElite business allows customers to charter business jets to get to their destination or to connect to commercial Delta flights. It "supports our strategy to provide differentiating products and services to high-value customers," Black said.

Segrave Aviation, which has a maintenance operation along with its charter service and jet management operations, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta AirElite. But as Segrave is integrated into AirElite's operation, the consolidation may result in job transfers or job cuts, Black said.

Delta AirElite started operations in 1984 as Comair Jet Express. After Delta acquired Comair Holdings, it changed the name of the Jet Express operation to Delta AirElite. In addition to on-demand charter service, the company sells fleet memberships for a set number of flight hours. It also manages private aircraft for companies and individuals, in many cases hiring them out to others when not needed by the owner. Its fleet includes aircraft such as Hawker Beechcraft, Lear 60 and Challenger 604 jets.

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