Delta Air Lines churns 2% of its route network; Seattle-Tacoma Airport gains the most as Memphis endures cuts

June 16 2013: Delta adds Seattle-Shanghai Pudong.

June 16 2013: Delta Air Lines adds Seattle-Tacoma to Shanghai Pudong. Seattle’s growing importance in Delta’s network is further confirmed by the recent announcements of trans-oceanic services to Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Seoul Incheon, all starting next summer.

Based on passengers carried, Delta Air Lines was the world's number one airline in 2012, helping 164.6 million people get from one place to another on one of its aircraft, an increase of 0.4% over the previous year. This includes flights operated under contract with other carriers. Capacity as measured by ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) fell by 1.8%, but load factor improved by 1.6 percentage points to 83.7%. So far, in the first eight months of 2013, passenger numbers have fallen by 0.4%, though ASKs and load factor are both up 0.3%. This apparent anomaly can be explained by an increase in average sector length.
Region August 2013 - change in ASKs Jan  to Aug 2013 - Change in ASKs
Domestic +2.7% +0.7%
International - All +4.0% -0.4%
International - Latin America +15.3% +5.0%
International - Atlantic +3.6% -1.7%
International - Pacific -0.8% -1.5%
Total system +3.3% +0.3%
Source: Delta Air Lines
Delta's own statistics for the whole of August show an increase in ASKs of 3.3%, but does not break this down by airport. As a result has analysed schedule data for a peak week in August which indicates an increase in ASKs across the airline's network of 5.7%, and an increase in seat capacity of 5.9%.

More capacity in Seattle, less in Memphis

Analysis of weekly seat capacity at Delta's leading airports in August shows that the top 10 airports all offered more weekly seats than in August 2012, with Seattle the biggest gainer. As recently showed, Memphis has taken the biggest hit in capacity, down 30% in a year.
Delta Air Lines - Top 15 airports Change in departing seats August 2013 v August 2012

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 13 August 2012

In the last 12 months Delta has launched new services from Seattle to Los Angeles (in April), and Anchorage, Las Vegas, Shanghai Pudong and Tokyo Haneda (all in June of this year). In addition, it has increased the number of daily flights from Seattle to Detroit and New York JFK.

New York JFK second if measured by ASKs

If sector length is taken into account, then New York JFK jumps from fifth to second in terms of importance to Delta, still well behind Atlanta. Two non-US airports (shown in light green) now enter the top 10, with Tokyo Narita seventh and Amsterdam ninth.
Delta Air Lines - Top 12 airports Weekly departing ASKs (millions) in August 2013

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 13 August 2012

Memphis gets the blues as Delta cuts over a dozen routes

Comparing schedule data for August 2013 and August 2012 indicates that there are over 40 airport-pairs that Delta no longer serves, out of a total network of some 880 routes. The majority of these are summarised in the following table:
Airport (Code) Route dropped (Code, Weekly Frequencies in August 2012)
Atlanta (ATL) Columbia (COU, 7), Meridian (MEI, 13), Ontario (ONT, 7), Newburgh (SWF, 13)
Detroit (DTW) Hong Kong (HKG, 5), Tokyo Haneda (HND, 7)
Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP) Colorado Springs (COS, 2)
Salt Lake City (SLC) Mexico City (MEX, 4)
New York JFK (JFK) Dayton (DAY, 21), Elmira/Corning (ELM, 7), Georgetown (GEO, 7), Greensboro (GSO, 7), Hartford (BDL, 7), Valencia (VLC, 4)
New York LaGuardia (LGA) Ottawa (YOW, 20), Philadelphia (PHL, 32)
Boston (BOS) Kansas City (MCI, 12)
Cincinnati (CVG) Cancun (CUN, 1), Greensboro (GSO, 6), Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP, 6), Omaha (OMA, 6), Phoenix (PHX, 6), Syracuse (SYR, 1), Washington Dulles (IAD, 12)
Memphis (MEM) Amsterdam (AMS, 4), Birmingham (BHM, 19), Cleveland (CLE, 7), Columbia (COU, 13), Dallas Love Field (DAL, 14), Des Moines (DSM, 7), Fort Smith (FSM, 13), Greenville (GLH, 13), Jacksonville (JAX, 13), Laurel-Hattiesburg (PIB, 13), Pensacola (PNS, 1), San Francisco (SFO, 1), Springfield (SGF, 6), Tupelo (TUP, 13)
Source: Derived from Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 13 August 2012
These dropped routes represented around 2% of all Delta flights last August, but only 1.4% of total seat capacity. To compensate for these route cuts Delta has also started over 50 new routes during the last 12 months, which are summarised by airport in the following table:
Airport (Code) Route started (Code, Weekly Frequencies in August 2013)
Atlanta (ATL) Anchorage (ANC, 6), Burlington (BTV, 7), Calgary (YYC, 1), Dallas Love Field (DAL, 31), Green Bay (GRB, 7), Missoula (MSO, 1)
Detroit (DTW) -
Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP) Alpena (APN, 7), Dickinson (DIK, 14), Rhinelander (RHI, 14), Syracuse (SYR, 7), Williston (ISN, 20)
Salt Lake City (SLC) Madison (MSN, 7)
New York JFK (JFK) Quebec City (YQB, 14), Saint Maarten (SXM, 1), Vancouver (YVR, 6)
New York LaGuardia (LGA) Bermuda (BDA, 7), Dayton (DAY, 12), Des Moines (DSM, 6), Martha's Vineyard (MVY, 1), Nantucket (ACK, 3), Sarasota (SRQ, 7)
Los Angeles (LAX) Anchorage (ANC, 3), Boston (BOS, 7), Bozeman (BZN, 1), Nashville (BNA, 7), San Jose (SJC, 28), San Jose (SJO, 7), Seattle (SEA, 21), Spokane (GEG, 7)
Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) Anchorage (ANC, 7), Las Vegas (LAS, 7), Los Angeles (LAX, 21), Shanghai Pudong (PVG, 7), Tokyo Haneda (HND, 7)
Orlando (MCO) Hartford (BDL, 1), (GRR, 1), Milwaukee (MKE, 1)
Boston (BOS) Charleston (CHS, 2), Los Angeles (LAX, 7), Myrtle Beach (MYR, 1), Paris CDG (CDG, 7)
Source: Derived from Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 12 August 2013 and w/c 13 August 2012
These new routes represent 1.8% of all Delta's flights in August, 1.6% of its seat capacity, and 2.3% of its ASKs. Seattle's growing importance in Delta's network is further confirmed by the recent announcements of trans-oceanic services to Hong Kong, London Heathrow and Seoul Incheon, all starting next summer.


  1. Parker West says:

    I think what we’re eyeing is a war, or a game of chicken, between United and Delta waged in Seattle, between United, American, and Delta at Los Angeles. In the end the customers will enjoy lower fares until the first carrier cries: “Uncle”, takes their losses, and pulls out. The flights added at LAX duplicate many flights to the same locations out of SLC. In the end, we may see SLC dwindle as a hub, as LAX and other west coast airports take over. I doubt that Delta can continue to add to both MSP and Detroit, given their proximity in the upper mid-west. When this is over, Memphis and Cincinnati will no longer be hubs just handling local capacity, Detroit will downsize as well as Salt Lake City. Going back in time, it was Western Airlines that pulled out of LAX moving lock, stock and barrel to SLC saving a fortune and the airline. WA and DL merged, with DL keeping the low cost, on-time SLC hub. Apparently the risks at LAX and SEA are lower than the supposed benefits if DL should force American and United to cut capacity, thus winning the war.

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