Delta offers private jet rides as SkyMiles award

Delta Air Lines is offering a new use for SkyMiles, allowing high-mileage frequent fliers to redeem them for a flight on a private jet.

Delta on Tuesday launched the partnership with subsidiary Delta Private Jets, in an arrangement the airline says rivals can’t duplicate because they don’t own a private jet company.

Cashing in miles for a private jet flight won’t be cheap. A Delta frequent flier would have to redeem 2.5 million miles to get a $25,000 jet card, the lowest level available. That’s enough to fly about five hours on a small jet with six to eight seats.

“We’ve been trying to expand the usage of our miles,” said SkyMiles managing director Karen Zachary, including newer options like redeeming miles for a beer or champagne in a Sky Club. “We have people who really keep a lot of their miles to use for very unique experiences … We’ve also heard that people would love to use them for holiday gifts to take their family someplace.”

Just how many frequent fliers have 2.5 million miles saved up?

“Thousands,” Zachary said.

How many of them will actually use 2.5 million miles for a private jet flight?

“Honestly we have no idea,” Zachary said. “We hope that the aspirational aspect will actually draw people in.”

For Delta, that would help to reduce its liability from accumulated miles. “We want them to use those miles,” Zachary said, “not just because of the financial impact but also because of the experience when people are engaged.”

Delta Private Jets COO David Sneed expects the chance to redeem SkyMiles for private jet travel might even prompt some Delta American Express card holders, such as small business owners, to change their spending habits to earn more miles. The company has recently drawn other links between Delta Private Jets, which has about 70 aircraft in its fleet, and the airline.