Delta Invades Raleigh/Durham and Pittsburgh with Flights to Paris

Delta whipped up a surprise yesterday when it announced it would begin flights from both Raleigh/Durham and Pittsburgh to Paris/Charles de Gaulle next summer. I think I like this move, at least it seems like it’s worth a try, but I do find myself wondering if the planes will actually make it that far.

Delta Does Raleigh/Pittsburgh to ParisThe flights will operate five days a week beginning June 2/3 with 757s. According to the Great Circle Mapper, the Pittsburgh flight will be 3,910 miles while the one from Raleigh clocks in at 4,052 miles. You know that Continental Newark-Berlin flight that has to make fuel stops a lot? Yeah, that’s only 3,980. So how the heck are they going to make this work? Maybe Delta’s Pratt & Whitney engines have longer legs than Continentals’ Rolls Royce ones. Or maybe they’re planning on lots of fuel stops.

But let’s assume they’ve figured out how to make this work technically. Will it work from a business standpoint? Pittsburgh is US Airways territory. Even though they’ve virtually abandoned the city, that’s still the big airline in town. And Raleigh, despite having lost its American hub years ago, is still an American loyalist stronghold. So, Delta, member of SkyTeam, is taking aim at the Star Alliance and oneworld carriers here by trying to steal some share. So how can they go into these cities where they have no loyalty and make a European flight work? It’s all about Air France.

If they take passengers from these cities and send them into Paris, they can connect them on to a ton of Air France flights all over Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. All of a sudden, the service looks pretty interesting in that it can make a current two stop itinerary (US city to US gateway to EU gateway to EU city) into a one stop one (US city to EU gateway to EU city). And that can be attractive. Unfortunately, Delta’s red-tailed stepchild Northwest has tried this once and failed.

You may remember when Northwest started Hartford to Amsterdam as a way to take the traffic from Hartford and send it through Northwest partner KLM’s Amsterdam hub. It sounded good, but it lasted only a year before they announced the flight would be dropped. Maybe that was just because of high oil prices, and now it looks completely different, but if that was the case, you’d think Delta would be bringing that flight back instead of trying something new. In Hartford, there isn’t a loyalty to a single carrier like you have in Raleigh and Pittsburgh, so I’d think it would be an easier one to make work. Of course, if there isn’t enough local traffic, loyalty doesn’t matter. I figured that they might feel safer trying it from a Northwest stronghold like Indianapolis, but then again, that’s another 100 miles further than Raleigh, so I have no idea if they could even make that trip.

I have to give Delta credit for trying this one. If it works, it opens up a lot more opportunity for Delta from the East Coast to Paris and Amsterdam. If only Boeing would have kept the 757 production line and created an extended range 757-200 instead of wasting their time with the stretched 757-300. Just imagine what airlines would be flying right now if that plane had more range.

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32 Comments on "Delta Invades Raleigh/Durham and Pittsburgh with Flights to Paris"

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A
Guest

Personally I’d take the short hop over to Atlanta or Cincy just to ride in a widebody. The 757 is a rather comforable plane for up to 3-4 hours, but for transatlantic it just gets claustrophobic. Several times I’ve ridden Iceland Air 757’s and those are relatively short flights with the stop at Reyjkavik. Still it was uncomfortable compared to a 767 or A330.

Wonko Beeblebrox
Guest

Could the airlines make an increased range 757? I know that the old USAir had a select set of 737-301s and 737-401s that had full entertainment systems installed and did the transcon routes (at least out of PIT) when the 757s went into maint many years ago…

Alaska’s 737-400s don’t go east past Chicago, so US must have done something to get extended range out of their selected 400s… replaced some cargo area with extra fuel tanks, maybe?

Ron
Guest

Hartford is probably just too close to Boston (103 miles driving to BOS) and New York (JFK 117, EWR 131, and you can ride Amtrak to EWR). Springfield is just 93 miles from BOS. In a similar driving range you can get from PIT to CLE (126 miles) and from RDU to CLT (161 miles); the closest big international gateway is IAD (256 miles from PIT, 284 from RDU). These may be more successful than BDL simply because they have fewer alternatives.

dan
Member

Hey Brett – based on this – http://www.boeing.com/commercial/airports/acaps/753sec3.pdf it looks like the PW engines do have better range performance.

Zach
Guest
Given the popularity of the 757 and its resurrection as a transatlantic aircraft, would it be worth Boeing’s while to start making updated versions of the type? I would guess, since you didn’t include it in your post, that this isn’t on their radar screen, and I wonder why. With AA, US and CO retrofitting their 757s with winglets, this new DL service, the advent of Open Skies, etc., it would seem like there is a market for new, extended-range 757s, no? At any rate, I’m with A–unless you’re lucky enough to be flying somewhere other than coach, I’d almost… Read more »
Zach
Guest

*addendum: I mean, I guess if winglets, extra fuel tanks, etc., are more economical than buying completely new aircraft, then maybe there wouldn’t be a market for new production, but if more and more airlines are going to join the widebody long-haul club (and if the trend toward all business class flights continues), they’re ultimately going to need replacements for all of those old modified birds.

Brian Lusk
Guest

Brett and Wonko, at least US used fuel to increase the range. Urban legend has it that when Northeast flew their 727s (I think it was first with their -100s)nonstop from MIA to LAX, they had FAA permission to shut #2 down during flight. I’ve never seen offical confirmation of this.

Jonathan Heckman
Guest
Delta is really maxing out their 757s. I would’ve thought that this route would be planned for the 787s that Northwest / Delta has coming. It’s still a bit early in the merger to know fleet / operations specifics, but maybe I missed something. Brett, do you know what their plans are with the 787? It’s interesting to think that Pittsburgh was once one of the largest hubs in the world. Remember when it had over 500+ flights a day served by US Airways? Now, terminals are blocked off with concrete and the new terminals are basically just standing there.… Read more »
Zack Rules
Guest

I think on the next generation narrowbody, Boeing and Airbus will at least be able to product a jet with 4000nm range. Don’t forget about the Boeing 737-700ER with 5500nm and the Airbus A319LR with 4500nm although they’re not nearly as widespread as the 757.

Nick Barnard
Member

Zach, resurrecting the 757 has been hashed over and over in the aviation discussion forums.

As much as it is an awesome airplane it is also a 20+ year old design. Also the molds/forms other equipment needed to make new parts have likely long been destroyed.

The 757 isn’t coming back, but you bet a replacement is on the radar, I’d expect as part of the 737RS plan if I were to place my bets..

Nick Barnard
Member

Oh CF, how much do you think this is Delta attempting to thumb their nose at their traditional competitor (US Airways) and the airline they just took over the largest airline mantle from (American)?

John
Guest
I live in Durham and one of the big pluses I see is better recovery options for missed connections. If I have to fly to JFK or BWI before heading off to Europe and something goes wrong and I miss the connection, I’m more than likely stuck for 24 hours until the next night’s flight. But if I leave RDU straight for Europe even if we’re late arriving in Paris and miss a connection, there are probably several more flights that day I can take to continue to my final destination. That said price will still be a factor. We… Read more »
Mike
Guest

Didn’t US Airways just add a Paris flight out of CLT? It’s clear Delta’s taking them on in PIT and since they realize they can’t compete in CLT they figure they can take away some of that route’s business by flying out of RDU. I’m excited to see how they each price these new routes. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that price wars are awesome.

Steven Frischling
Guest
“You may remember when Northwest started Hartford to Amsterdam as a way to take the traffic from Hartford and send it through Northwest partner KLM’s Amsterdam hub” Speaking from a personal and convenience point of view, not a business point of view, I miss the Northwest BDL-AMS flight. I live just 63 miles from BDL, while JFK is 120 miles and BOS is 122 miles from my house. Driving to BOS is actually faster and easier, but I can do BDL in my sleep at 4:00am (and I have plenty of times). The problem with DL’s move into PIT and… Read more »
Mike
Guest

Good point. Delta has some flights to their big hubs (ATL and CVG) out of PIT and RDU, but I can’t imagine them being able to sustain a regular Paris route in a market as small as PIT or RDU without the airport being at least a focus city. Brett mentioned the epic fail that was Northwest’s grand experiment and it didn’t work. If it didn’t work in Hartford (which probably drew from the greater NY and greater Boston areas), it’s really going to fail in markets like Pittsburgh and the Triangle.

Steven Frischling
Guest
Brett, I understand the theory that this is a way to bring pax into Air France’s hub at CDG, while I think this is a DL/AF attempt at pulling in traffic from limited markets, it does not address Delta’s statements on these routes. In speaking with a DL PR person I was informed that the new city pairs were designed to be two-way receprical route. Both flowing passengers into the AF network throughout Europe,and also bring passengers into the US to be fed into the DL network. I asked how bringing pax into PIT and RDU would feed DL’s network… Read more »
Henry Harteveldt
Member
Perhaps one reason why DL has chosen not to resurrect BDL-AMS at this time is due to financial service firms’ poor business conditions. Mr. Frischling’s comment that the added convenience of flying nonstop to Europe was not worth the additional premium is telling. If a fare premium is too high, business passengers may be encouraged or required to use close-by less expensive alternatives. I suspect that businesses which may have allowed J class travel on the BDL-AMS route have, like so many, eliminated that privilege and clamped down on the remaining business travel they do permit. I believe that the… Read more »
Shane
Guest
Don’t you think some of this has to do with aircraft utilization? The new Delta now has a bunch of airplanes, but a major goal of consolidation is to reduce capacity (although that is not what Delta claims). However, Delta is now competing against itself with overlapping domestic routes and other routes where they would like to cut capacity. So why try a plan where you would eventually take most of your 757’s out of domestic service and put them on hopefully more lucrative TATL routes? Why park a bunch of planes in the desert when you can still get… Read more »
Kevin
Guest

Continental now serves EWR-TXL with a Boeing 767-200ER.

JG
Guest
Jonathan: I don’t think PIT is going to enjoy a newfound re-emergence as anything. It is quite sad that it is largely idle, but with fewer US airlines and fewer US flights, airports are seeing drops in the number of daily flight, not increases. PIT has been bargaining for a true international flight for some time. The county thinks that this will stimulate international corporations to move to the area. They supposedly waived landing fees for the PIT-CDG DL flights, but I wonder what other incentives they gave DL? ($0.50 off per 10,000 gal. of Jet A for every cup… Read more »
The Big K
Guest

JG:

How about this (from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):

The local business community, which has been adamant in seeking the service, is so confident it can make Delta’s decision worthwhile that it, along with the state, is providing a financial backstop. If the Paris flights don’t meet revenue targets after one year, the Allegheny Conference and the state will split a $5 million payment to the airline. If enough revenue isn’t generated in the second year, they’ll pay another $4 million.

JG
Guest
K: Thanks for the info! Although I wish it were not the case, I feel that the base of businesses that will use the international flight is shrinking, not growing. Also, these businesses are letting fewer employees travel. After two years and the incentives run out, what happens then? I am curious if there are other examples of a group of businesses getting together and essentially subsidizing air travel so that that could have a particular route? Did Toyota did this for the UA west-coast routes to Nagoya? Does Disney do this for the LAX-MCO flights? OK, so those are… Read more »
Ken PIT
Guest
I appreciate all the interest generated by the PIT-CDG route, but it’s clear that most of the comments are from folks who are unfamiliar with the PIT market. It is the largest market in the U.S. (outside of San Diego) without non-stop service to Europe. Because of the strength of the business market, it has disproportionately high revenue. And it is no longer US territory. US is down to about 33% of ops at PIT, still the single biggest carrier but not dominant by any stretch. John from RDU explained exactly why the PIT flight will be successful with business… Read more »
Matty D.
Guest
I dont fly the 757 / 76 but from a pilot perspective, I also am showing PIT-CDG at about 3435 NM (about 3950 statute miles), and the RDU-CDG run at 3550 NM (about 4085 miles). Whenever you cross the pond the distance might vary depending which track is being used according to the upper level winds. Sometimes (especially in the winter) these flights get wicked tailwinds = faster groundspeed = sooner to see the Eiffel Tower! Crossing the other way and you could see strong headwinds = slower groundspeed = stopping to pick up fuel once over land. I don’t… Read more »
David
Guest
RDU to CDG is an interesting flight option. Maybe they are partnering with AF as a feeder or a very valuable corporate client has asked DL to create this flight similar to AA from RDU to LHR (formerly LGW). The PIT to CDG may be interesting for WN customers. I don’t know of too many companies that are based at PIT with french operations but they may have passengers from WN or US that might make it worthwhile. Perhaps DL wants to steal US traffic out of PHL. The more sustainable options for customers, the better!
Dheena Dayal Raju
Guest

Hello,

This is a welcome move by Delta.
Now any traveller from Pittsburgh has to fly/drive minimum of 400 miles to board any international flight to fly to Europe/Middle east/Asia.

This direct flight eliminates that travel time which is beneficial for the whole region (particularly the small town near and around pittsburgh)

DDR

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