Pulling ahead of United, Delta will become the official airline of the U.S. Olympics next year

Mar 3, 2020

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That noise you hear is Rhapsody in Blue fading into the background.

After almost 40 years, United Airlines is passing the torch to Delta as the official airline for U.S. Olympic athletes.

The partnership will officially take effect next year, and Delta will begin flying competitors to the 2022 Beijing games, the airline announced Tuesday.

Delta is also a “founding partner” of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and will partner with LA28, which is organizing the games, on community service initiatives in the coming years.

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“Delta is in the business of connecting people, and nothing brings the world together quite like the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “The dreams and big ideas born in Los Angeles inspire us to imagine a better future. Partnering with LA28 is an investment in LA’s future and a commitment to work together to create a more connected, equitable and sustainable world.”

In the last decade, Delta has been growing its presence in Los Angeles. It now serves more than 70 destinations with more than 170 daily flights from LAX, according to the airline.

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics may be cancelled amid coronavirus worries.

A person familiar with United’s previous sponsorship agreement told TPG that the airline had spent around $4 million per year on the current Olympic deal, which spanned four years. The new deal with Delta is reportedly worth about $400 million over the course of eight years, according to The Los Angeles Times. When the sponsorship officially begins next year, Delta is expected to unveil a special LA28 livery on one of its Airbus A350s.

For its part, United said it will remain in Team USA’s corner, even after it is no longer an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympians.

“United Airlines has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Team USA athletes for nearly four decades and we are excited for the Tokyo games later this summer,” Maddie King, a spokeswoman for the airline said in a statement. “Even after our sponsorship ends, we look forward to cheering proudly for our athletes and their unwavering competitive spirit for years to come.”

Featured photo by Patrick T. Fallon/The Points Guy

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