Anyone who thinks that the days of airline schedule retaliation are over clearly hasn’t been watching Delta. The airline is royally pissed that Frontier had the gall to enter the Minneapolis to Kansas City market and now it’s unleashing its own response to try to change the airline’s mind. What a waste of a good airplane.
On March 2, Frontier said it would begin two daily flights between its mini-hub in Kansas City and Minneapolis on June 6. Before these flights, Delta was the only one operating that route. It was big enough that there were even some mainline Delta flights out there. So you would expect hard price competition between the two and maybe a little beefing up/tweaking of Delta’s schedule to best position itself against Frontier. But the reaction was far stronger than that.
Delta has quietly added new flights that sit right on top of Frontier coincidentally (yeah right), also beginning on June 6. You will now get two daily flights from Kansas City to Boston, two to Columbus, one to New Orleans, and one from Omaha to Washington/National. Why do I say this is retaliation? Because there’s no other way to look at this.
The only nonstop from Kansas City to Boston, Columbus, and New Orleans right now is on Frontier. Apparently Delta forgot to look at the tapes, however, because the Columbus flight will end on June 3. But these are also the only nonstops from Kansas City on Frontier that have no direct competition except for Austin, Seattle, and the newly-announced San Antonio flight. There’s no way Delta is going to want to waste that much aircraft time to bother with Seattle if it’s just retaliation. And Austin and San Antonio really aren’t Delta’s domain. They can leave that to the Texan airlines.
But possibly the biggest smack is that Omaha to Washington route. That’s one of the legacy Midwest Express (now part of Frontier) routes that has been operated for years. Right now, Frontier flies it twice daily but Delta is coming in to spoil the party.
Though I doubt this is the main catalyst, this move might also be a little kick in the pants for Frontier’s decision to fly to Provo, an alternate for Delta’s big Salt Lake City hub. Never a dull moment in this business.
So what’s the bottom line here? This is an attempt by Delta to convince Frontier not to bother starting Minneapolis. The hope is that if the collateral damage is too much, Frontier will walk away with its tail between its legs (sticking with the Frontier animal theme). But Frontier isn’t likely to budge on this, I wouldn’t think. Instead, both airlines may just suffer losses for awhile as they compete hard against each other. At some point, someone at Delta will realize that it’s a waste of time and pull out.
It always amazes me that airlines continue to try these types of tactics that so rarely seem to succeed. And since it’s nearly impossible to prove anti-competitive behavior, there’s nothing really stopping Delta from doing this other than someone on the inside looking at the balance sheet and saying that it’s a huge waste of money. At a time when fuel is spiking, decisions based on spite instead of actual commercial viability really are a waste.
But hey, there is a silver lining. Cheap fares for Kansas City-folk for awhile! Enjoy it while you can.