Delta Air Lines has announced an initial equity investment of $60 million in air taxi startup Joby Aviation. This California-based company is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The carrier says it plans to deploy the aircraft in home-to-airport premium services, initially in the New York and Los Angeles markets.
The partnership will be mutually exclusive in the US and UK for five years following commercial launch and may be extended beyond that. In addition, the airline may expand its initial investment up to $200 million as certain milestones are reached.
The Joby-operated air taxi service will integrate into Delta’s customer-facing channels to allow Delta passengers traveling through New York and Los Angeles to reserve a seat for zero-operating-emission transport to and from city airports when booking Delta travel.
Backed by Japanese automaker Toyota, Joby projects that its five-seat air taxi design will be ready for operation by 2024. The aircraft is designed for fast, quiet, and sustainable short flights in and around cities.
The Federal Aviation Administration granted the aircraft a G-1 (Stage 4) Certification Basis in 2019. The eVTOL company has flown more than 1,000 test flights as it seeks an Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA. In addition, Joby Aviation has applied to Japan’s transport ministry for aircraft certification.
In May, the company received its FAA Part 135 Air Carrier Certification to operate commercial air-taxi operations with conventional aircraft.
“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,” commented Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian.
With its Joby investment, Delta joins American Airlines and United Airlines as players in the eVTOL market, which is projected to reach $2.3 billion by 2027, according to analysts at ResearchAndMarkets.com.
United Airlines has struck deals with several electric airplane developers, including an order for 200 battery-powered short-haul electric aircraft from Archer Aviation, targeting the launch of consumer flights in 2024.
United also has a conditional agreement with Swedish startup Heart Aerospace for 100 of its 19-seaters. Furthermore, the carrier has invested $15 million in Embraer subsidiary Eve Air Mobility, along with an agreement to buy 200 four-seat electric aircraft with options for 200 more. The first aircraft deliveries under those arrangements are expected as early as 2026.
Meanwhile, American Airlines is investing $25 million in eVTOL developers Vertical Aerospace. American Airlines expects to make a $1 billion pre-order of up to 250 aircraft, with an additional 100-plane option.
At the same time, in addition to a host of eVTOL startups, major aerospace companies such as Airbus and Boeing are also working on developing electric short-range vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.