Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “I’m optimistic that there are better and certainly more sustainable ways to get to the airport than sitting in traffic for an hour or two on the way to JFK, LaGuardia, or LAX.” He added that there could be more markets “on the way”.
Electric machines that take off and land vertically, such as helicopters, have attracted increasing interest from airlines and aircraft leasing companies. Airlines, including United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL-1.00% and American Airlines Group Inc. AAL-1.07%, hope to use small, quiet vehicles to transport passengers through traffic jams and congested city streets to and from airports.
Delta Air Lines, which has watched competitors hit on future plans for electric vertical takeoff and landing, joins a growing list of airlines looking to make short-haul trips to and from airports faster and easier.
The airline is investing $60 million in Joby Aviation, a startup that plans to build and operate an electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft that is essentially an air taxi.
Delta also has an exclusive five-year partnership with Joby, which operates eVTOLs as part of the Delta network.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian envisions getting passengers to and from the airport faster and easier.
“We offer them the opportunity to enhance this experience by taking a Joby vehicle from near their home or business directly to the airport and reducing their time in the country by 50%, if not more.
Initially, Joby and Delta are targeting eVTOL service to and from New York and Los Angeles airports, although the companies believe the service will expand to other airports across the country and eventually overseas.
Airport routes are cornerstones for any urban facility that is close to a terminal and can save customers time, “Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bivert.
Delta’s deal with Joby means the three US legacy operators have all taken stakes in eVTOL startups.
American Airlines invested $25 million in Vertical Aerospace and ordered 50 aircraft from the UK-based company.
United Airlines has two eVTOL layouts and aircraft orders. One for $15 million with Eve Air Mobility on an order of 200 aircraft. Another is for $10 million from Archer Aviation and an order for 100 Archer eVTOLs.
Over the past year, eVTOL stocks like Joby have struggled as investors have moved away from pre-revenue companies.
When will that day come for Joby and other eVTOL companies? It depends on when their aircraft are certified and put into service.
Some are targeting 202, but Joby Bivert’s CEO won’t promise a release date. “There are parts that are under our control and there are parts that are not under our control, so I can’t tell you an exact date,” he said.
Air taxi companies have raised more than $7 billion from investors in the past two years. But shares in companies like Joby fell sharply as investors worried about possible delays in the move to the revenue service. Joby is worth about $2.05 billion, more than half of last year.
Air taxis are currently not allowed to fly with paying passengers in the United States or elsewhere. Companies involved in the nascent industry have been working to certify their planes and fly their vehicles, including obtaining permits, aviation safety executives and officials said.
Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would require air taxi pilots to have so-called engine lifts because the proposed vehicles would need to take off and land vertically.
Delta’s strategy is slightly different from that of its competitors. It doesn’t plan to buy Joby’s electric vehicles or use its own pilots to fly them. Instead, it will outsource and offer the service as an add-on that customers can book through Delta’s website or app.