Some of you may remember life in LA twenty years ago. It was the end of the road for Western Airlines. Delta was getting ready to acquire them along with their substantial LAX hub and brand new terminal in 1987. Since that time, Delta has effectively dismantled the hub and shrunk to having flights only to their other hubs with a few stragglers, like flights to Hawai’i, the only remaining evidence of the old days.
Fast forward to this week and you’ll see that Delta has made its first effort at rebuilding its presence at LAX with a slew of new Latin flying. They detail the new routes in their press release. The bulk of the flying involves six 50 seat CRJs. They start the day by flying to 5 domestic cities from LAX at 7a. Then they pick up passengers bound for Mexico around 9a to bring them back to LAX. The cities are:
*Las Vegas (LAS) eff 12/15
*San Francisco (SFO) eff 12/18
*Sacramento (SMF) eff 12/22
*Oakland (OAK) eff 1/5
*San Jose (SJC) eff 2/1
Then around 11a, they all depart to their Mexican destinations:
*La Paz (LAP) eff 12/15
*Loreto (LTO) eff 12/18
*Mazatlan (MZT) eff 12/22
*Culiacan (CUL) eff 1/6
*Hermosillo (HMO) eff 2/1
*Torreon (TRC) eff 3/8
They they turn back to LAX between 3p and 4p and then head back to the domestic destinations at 6p. They end the day by returning to LAX to do it all over again.
In addition to these flights, there will be one 70 seat CRJ-700 that flies a redeye to Zacatecas (ZCL) eff 1/16 with a morning return. Then it heads off to Manzanillo (ZLO) eff 1/16 and comes back to LAX soon after.
The big Delta jets get in on the action with flights to Acapulco (ACA) three times a week eff 12/16 and weekly flights to both Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR) on a 737-800 and Guatemala City (GUA) on a 757, both eff 12/15.
So now that we’ve gotten the details out of the way, is this a good idea? I seem to stand alone in my thoughts that this can work. LA seems to have a tremendous opportunity for additional Mexican flying, and this attempts to fill the hole with flying to secondary cities that could use the flights. For the most part, the non-tourist destinations here are being served by Mexican carriers, often by 50 seat ERJs. That’s something that Delta can compete with theoretically.
I’ve heard many people talk about how stupid it is to put two daily flights between LAX and the domestic destinations when they’re already served almost hourly by other airlines, but that’s not the point. These flights are solely to feed the Mexican flights, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more flying that they could feed in the future. (Asia?)
For me, there are two big issues that could sink this attempt. First, Delta may not be the right airline to try this move. Sure, twenty years ago they had a loyal base of Western fliers, but they don’t have that anymore. Loyalty has swung over to United and American as well as Southwest and more recently Alaska. Delta has a small presence, so they’re going to have to work a lot harder than, say, United, to fill those planes.
The second issue is the choice of aircraft. Those CRJs are small, but more importantly, they can’t carry much luggage. Anyone who has flown to Latin destinations with mostly ethnic travelers knows that they will check a LOT of luggage. I’ve heard of tires, televisions, you name it. These CRJs will be severely restricted in that, so the ethnic traffic they need may not even give them a thought.
I do like the idea though, and if Delta can’t make it work, hopefully someone will.