A Delta Hub In St Louis? Yeah, Right

One of the more laughable rumors in recent memory has come to the surface in recent days. The rumorville is buzzing with the possibility of a Delta hub in St Louis. What a stupid idea. This rumor is either completely wrong or Delta is a lot dumber than I thought. My guess is that this is just being completely blown out of proportion.

Watch this news report and then come on back for more discussion.

The rumors say that Delta is looking to establish up to eighty flights a day in St Louis. The Mayor confirmed that Delta was in town to talk, but he didn’t say anything about a “hub” per se. The local media seems to have jumped on that and run with it when in reality, Delta may just be looking for a few additional opportunities, if that.

St Louis isn’t a tiny operation for them. When LaGuardia starts in September, they’ll be up to 34 flights per day as follows:

  • Atlanta 8x
  • Cincinnati 3x
  • Detroit 6x
  • JFK 1x
  • LaGuardia 4x
  • Memphis 3x
  • Minneapolis/St Paul 6x
  • Salt Lake City 3x

Is it a huge stretch to see that number get up to 80 flights per day? Yep. I can’t see it. Where are they going to go? American still covers a few of the other major local traffic destinations with Southwest ramping up as well. But the news reports focus on how St Louis lacks service to Europe.

Ah, there’s a possibility. Delta is not shy when it comes to subsidies. In fact, they launched a mega-money loser in Pittsburgh by connecting the city with Paris. But the money is being lost by the city, not the airline, so it’s an easy one for Delta to do. That flight, however, is flown by a 757 while anything from St Louis to Europe is bound to Delta and St Louisrequire at least a 767 unless they feel like stopping somewhere along the way to fill up. (Which, by the way, is a sure-fire way to make this lose even more money.)

So why was Delta in St Louis to talk? For the same reason every airline talks to every airport. They’re always looking for good opportunities. St Louis isn’t going to be one of them, I hope, but it won’t be because of something the airport did wrong. The report mentions the lack of terminal space as a possible impediment. This is a joke, right? Pittsburgh may be the only airport in the country with more empty gates. If Delta wanted to come in and set up a hub, you know they’d bend over backwards to find space that Delta likes.

The other issue mentioned is the fact that the airport is expensive. This is true, but they aren’t really looking at the right metric. The cost per enplanement was in the $10 range a couple years back and that’s the metric to look at. It’s likely to rise a few dollars more before things get better. This isn’t a surprise. As the airport loses service, the costs have be spread over fewer enplanements. It’s ugly.

The report compared St Louis to Memphis, Delta’s closest hub. Memphis runs in the $6 to $7 range per enplanement, so it is a significant difference, but that doesn’t mean that Delta will go running to St Louis if costs come down.

Northwest found a way to make Memphis work, and Delta has done very little to screw that up . . . yet. That’s why while we’ve seen Cincinnati get slashed, Memphis has remained fairly stable. But what’s a great way to ruin a good thing like that? Open a new hub 250 miles north. You throw a bunch of flights into St Louis and you undoubtedly hurt Memphis, something that works well.

In the end, we might see a few more flights and even a Europe run if St Louis wants to subsidize it, but a hub? We won’t see it. (And if we do . . . wow . . . that will be just an awful move.)

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44 Comments on "A Delta Hub In St Louis? Yeah, Right"

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Tell us how you really feel, Cranky!

David SF eastbay
Paint all the Northwest planes in Delta colors and now it does look like DL is a big player in STL. But that’s from buying another airline and not from starting a bunch of new service to build up towards a hub. A city like STL would be a good hub since it is right in the middle of the country which is why TWA used it for all those decades. And it was TWA connections that fed nonstops to London, Paris, and Frankfurt not the locals. Unless something ‘interesting’ is happening in Memphis that DL would feel they need… Read more »

Unless Delta wants to merge hubs at SLC & MEM into STL, this is nonsenceacle.


Wow, Cranky – did you have a bad breakup in Saint Louis, or something? This post is really, uh, tinged with anger. ;-)


MSP is the loser in the next 4-5 years.
DL has shot most of the admin staff up there already, the future of MSP as a hub is doubted by insiders not just the disgruntled. But STL???


BTW MSP: 15 GATES to SWA believe it


As one who lives in the Des Moines, IA area (which had service to St. Louis from Braniff, Ozark, TWA and American) before American discontinued service not too long ago, I hope that Delta sees an opportunity to link Des Moines to its network through that city. What are your thoughts?


STL should be happy that they have the NYC (JFK and LGA) service plus all of the DL hubs. Of course, if anybody wants to place bets on how soon CVG-STL gets pulled, I’m listening…


Kansas City and St. Louis, where hub dreams go to die


I think it’s funny that people would even think Delta would pull an “American”. Let’s face it – – the TWA acquisition was the stupidest thing American had ever done, and they promptly exited St. Louis for a reason – it’s a money pit.

PHILL, I want to respectfully disagree with your comment. I recall reading in the newspaper at one point a few years after the TWA buyout that STL was one of AA’s most profitable hubs. Its good fit with connecting flights, decent weather, lack of serious competition and resulting high fares, and its decent o/d business traffic combined to make it a half-decent hub. Of course, AA also had its nearby hubs in ORD and DFW, so STL made less sense for them than it would for, say, an airline such as USAir or a pre-NWA Delta. Also, contrary to your… Read more »

For the person who claimed MSP’s demise is just around the corner: MSP is not going anywhere. Delta is required to keep something like 400 daily flights at the airport, as part of their deal with the state to close the NWA headquarters. A lot of headquarter-type jobs vanished in the merger, but the flights haven’t. And unlike St. Louis, there is a lot of local traffic and biz travel here.

mitch c

I think the poster is right, Anderson will get out of Minneapolis as soon as they can settle with the State of MN. 400 flights? there is no agreement DL would possibly make like that. The Asian Turns are all going away so where’s the
traffic that DL needs to keep? You sound like you’re a bounced NWAer!


I’ve never worked for any airline, and honestly think it would have sucked to work at NWA. However, I do live up here, and have followed the news closely. Here’s a Star Tribune article about the deal. You’ll see they’ve guaranteed 400 daily flights and a lot of jobs:


OK, let’s look at the NUMBERS: Minneapolis-St. Paul has 3.2 million people, St. Louis has 2.8 million. Not a huge difference. Last time I checked, USBank has its headquarters in MSP, but has its business headquarters in STL because it has more corporate business there. Weather at STL is much better than MSP, obviously. Why is it so ridiculous to consider STL as a hub but MSP is a great city for a hub? STL is larger than hub cities Denver (2.5 million), Cleveland (2.3MM), Cincinnati (2.1MM), Charlotte (1.7MM), Milwaukee (1.5MM), Memphis (1.3MM) and Salt Lake City (1.1MM). St. Louis… Read more »
Actually TWA’s hub in St. Louis was a very fine hub! Operations were very nice there! Alaska Air just added STL today and Delta also just released a statement that said: Trebor Banstetter (Delta Spoklesperson) wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a hub being moved to or created in St. Louis. Ther ya go… Delta is not denying it nor is it a secret that they are looking at the possibility. St. Louis’ airport is under major renovations and updates and theyy also have a brand new runway system – for capacity. They also have 3 million people in the… Read more »
STL is really coming along. I flew through STL on an American Airlines connection and on a Southwest connection this year. The terminals are really looking nice and I have to say that this is one of America’s heritage airports! Anyway, I would like to see Delta land a hub here. It makes sense to consolidate those little hubs into another large major city airport where you can draw from a 3 million pop and have excellent accommodations in a major airport like STL. Memphis and Cincy Airports are lousy in comparison. STL also have numerous runways and better weather… Read more »

My opinion based on the statement mentioned above which must have come from this…http://www.kmox.com/Delta-downplays-desire-to-hub-at-Lambert/7463058…is that STL could become a focus city at some point like DL briefly had in Columbus but that is it. Anything else is unreasonable. Also, if you go to departedflights.com and look at STL when it was an Ozark hub before it merged into TWA and became the bloated mess that ultimately didn’t work…STL really still has alot of what it had with the Ozark hub today with SW and others combined so they can only complain so much.


I see it as a win-win situation. A metropolitan area with 2.8 million people is no ghost town. Plus I hear Air China is looking to make St. Louis a North American HUB. American pulled out of St. Louis because American is going under and bigger cities like Chicago and New York provide more stability. In 10 years there probably won’t even be an American Airlines…..watch. Congrats to St. Louis if they are able to pull it off. Some good news for that region for a change.


According to a STL commerce magazine, China is currently looking to start a STL cargo flight every 2-3 days starting late fall/winter. It’s not yet set in stone, but i’d like to use this opportunity to smack the faces of all the people who ever doubted St. Louis’ ability to be a major player in the airline industry.

and Cranky, i don’t know why you try to deny the claim that you hate St. Louis; this is the third post i’ve seen from you that just trashes the city.

I highly doubt Delta would ever consolidate other services into STL. Cranky Flier is right, this is a ridiculous article. Cincinnati has a 2.2 million metro along with Dayton up North adding another million(and 10 fortune 500 companies), MEM has a 1.6 million metro (with tourism), and SLC is another 1.6 million metro (a major ski destination). Sam, several comments above, was claiming that they would consolidate CVG, MEM, and SLC into STL, making a mega-hub. That is, quite possibly, the stupidest comment I have read out of all these comments. If Delta were going to consolidate hubs, they would… Read more »
Joshua Rodriguez

The only was this could happen is to move Pinnacle Airlines to St. Louis and Merge Cincinnati and Memphis into one major hub of about 200 daily flight, making the hub larger than JFK.