Delta Keeps Shrinking Cincinnati but Not Memphis

On April 14, 2008, Delta and Northwest announced their merger with the promise that they would “maintain all hubs at Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK, Salt Lake City, Amsterdam and Tokyo-Narita.” I didn’t buy it, and I responded that it had to involve “cutting capacity out of the system. Where are the most likely candidates? I’m looking at you, Memphis and Cincinnati.” Now, over a year later, I thought it was time to take a look.

It appears that my predictions were half right. Cincinnati is shrinking rapidly (including a recent cut of 24 daily flights), but Memphis is actually holding strong. Who would’ve guessed? Let’s look at some graphs.

Number of Cincinnati Flights

Here you can see Cincinnati’s rapid decline. I looked at the number of daily departures on a random Wednesday during November for 2007, 2008, and 2009. During that time, the number of Delta/Northwest departures from the airport have been cut in half from 416 to 208. Mainline flights have dropped from 62 to 28, and now you’ll see mostly little 50 seaters buzzing around. Can it be much longer before the cuts continue? I think not.

Then we have Memphis. Check this one out.

Number of Memphis Flights

Memphis has held strong. There are now only 203 flights compared to 221, but that’s a much smaller decrease than what Cincinnati has seen and it’s in line with the general capacity cuts we’ve seen around the system. It has lost a lot of mainline – 78 to 42 departures – but that is still a fairly large percentage of the total operation. Most importantly, Memphis has not seen a loss in the number of destinations served, so it’s really just a frequency reduction. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has seen the number of destinations served drop from 116 to 77. See for yourself.

Memphis and Cincinnati Number of Destinations

So we see a mixed bag here, that’s for sure. Delta appears to be finding some level of success in Memphis while Cincinnati suffers from death by a thousand cuts.

[Updated 7/7 @ 1118a: Transposed Memphis departure numbers were fixed]

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