Delta partners with Wheels Up, creating one of the world’s largest fleets of private aircraft

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As an airliner prepares to land, a bird takes off at the Gravelly Point park that’s just off the end of the runway near Reagan National Airport.

Michael S. Williamson | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Delta Airlines is taking a minority stake in private aviation start-up Wheels Up, in a move that establishes one of the world’s largest operated fleets of private aircraft, the company said Thursday.

Once the transaction is approved, which is expected in early 2020, Wheels Up will have a fleet of 190 airplanes and more than 8,000 customers, Delta said in a press release.

“This groundbreaking partnership will democratize private aviation – making the convenience of private jet travel accessible to more consumers,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. He added that the agreement “is the latest step in Delta’s ongoing effort to build partnerships that extend Delta’s brand beyond its core business.”

The company declined to disclose the transaction’s financial terms. Delta added, however, that there will be no expected impact to its 2019 financial guidance. Additionally, Delta will hold an equity position in Wheels Up, which said in August that it had completed a $128 million round of funding that valued the company at $1.1 billion.

As CNBC previously reported, industry giants such as VistaJet, Directional Aviation, and Wheels Up are vying to become the dominant players in the space.

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