Delta Air Lines announced on Tuesday that it is investing $60 million in electric air taxi startup Joby, as part of a deal to quickly and easily transport passengers from their homes to the airport using “vertiports”. » distributed in the cities it serves. The airline promises up to $140 million in additional investment if Joby reaches unspecified milestones. The service will first be available in New York and Los Angeles, and it could happen as early as 2024.
Most of us would agree that air travel these days is a less than delightful experience. But we usually complain about issues like flight delays and constantly shrinking legroom. We don’t often complain about one of the worst parts of flying – getting to the airport in the first place.
That’s the pain point Delta hopes for solve with this investment. “The companies will work together to integrate a service operated by Joby into Delta’s customer contact channels, offering customers who fly Delta via New York and Los Angeles the ability to reserve a seat for short, emission-free rides and zero-emission travel to and from city airports when booking Delta travel,” the airline said in a statement. statement.
Here’s the plan: Passengers booking a Delta flight could book a Joby ride at the same time. They would travel from a Joby vertiport near them at the airport, landing somewhere near the gates of Delta. (Joby has also partnered with Uber, so that would be another way to book a ride.) Delta CEO Ed Bastion told CNBC that using Joby could reduce travel time to the airport by 50% or more.
It could reduce the misery of travel far more than that. Let’s face it, getting to the airport can be the most tedious and daunting part of air travel. Whether you’re in your own car, a rideshare, an airport van, or even a limo, crawling through heavy city traffic is never fun, and it’s usually unavoidable on airport rides. In some cities, the light rail offers an alternative, but it’s still a long walk or bus ride from the light rail station to the ticket offices, which is especially off-putting if you’re lugging luggage.
Making Air Travel Less Bad
I myself didn’t realize how much of a difference it made until Boeing opened Paine Field to commercial flights. The company has used this airport for years to fly its own planes from the factory to customers, and in 2019 it opened up to commercial flights as well. I live about 12 km away. So of course, when I can, I use Paine Field rather than Seattle-Tacoma International, 45 miles away. The first time I did it, I was amazed at how much less strenuous the whole trip was and how energized I felt when I arrived at my destination.
How soon will passengers be able to experience electric air taxi flights? This is a matter of speculation. Joby said he plans to launch his own commercial service (which would run alongside his Delta service) in 2024. He recently obtained one of the many certifications he needs before he can start flying commercially, and he’s on track to get more. It has already performed more than 1,000 test flights. Launched in 2009, Joby went public via a SPAC last year, raising $1.6 billion. That’s a lot of time and a lot of money for a company that hasn’t started selling its product yet, as some naysayers point out.
On the other hand, it seems clear that electric vehicle take-off and landing technology, which goes by the acronym eVTOL, is the way of the future. Because they have no exhaust and are considerably quieter, electric air taxis will be much more welcome in densely populated areas than helicopters. Joby seems to be further along this path than anyone else, and this deal with Delta is another step in the right direction.
So maybe we can all take an air taxi to the airport in the not too distant future. I hope so, because getting there by any other means is really a hindrance.