The details are out. Now that the feds have finally paved the way for the Delta/US Airways slot swap (at least this part of it), Delta can finally roll out its plans to dominate New York. This is far from just replacing US Airways on existing flights but is rather a much broader shift.
There’s great news for people in bigger cities, primarily other hubs. Delta will be providing some competition there that didn’t exist before. But that growth means someone else loses, and it’s primarily smaller cities. This isn’t really a surprise, but it’s going to make people pretty unhappy that need those routes. Ultimately, these can be divided into four different categories. Let’s go through each of them.
Big Cities, Big Winners
What Delta is really trying to do here is offer frequent nonstop service in top business markets. That’s good for travelers but not for other airlines. The biggest likely loser? American.
Of these 14 cities, American serves five of them nonstop, so it won’t be happy. As if that’s not bad enough, Delta’s new flights to Halifax will certainly pull from JFK, where American operates the only nonstop flights to Halifax today. For two cities, Nassau and Halifax, this will be the only nonstop flights in the markets, so they’re just going to be happy in general.
You’ll notice that Halifax, Montreal, and Ottawa all are getting service but Toronto is not. Seems strange, right . . . oh wait not so much. Remember, some of those divested slots went to WestJet, and the expectation is that most if not all will fly to Toronto. Oh, and did I mention that Delta and WestJet are planning to codeshare? Not so much of a divestment, eh? Here’s the list of winners.
Most of them are markets that are already served by Delta today but aren’t served by US Airways. In these, Delta is adding an additional flight, so it’s all good news for this group.
There are two that don’t fall into that category. Washington/Dulles will see its 4 daily US Airways flights replaced with 4 new flights from Delta. That might seem like a wash, but US Airways loyalists could always fly United before and can continue to do so and still earn miles. Delta brings convenience to its loyalists, so it provides better utility. Also, some will be happy to see jets replacing turboprops, but that doesn’t matter to me.
The last one is a special case. The 4 daily US Airways flights to Syracuse will be replaced by 5 from Delta. Not bad, but why is this happening? Delta has been particularly careful to court the New York politicians in this process. That relationship has helped open plenty of doors, so those upstate New York markets will be taken care of quite nicely. Here’s the list:
In this group there are really two types of cities. The first group loses the least. These are cities that have US Airways service today but no Delta service. The US Airways flights will disappear and Delta will step in, just with fewer frequencies. These cities get “upgraded” to jets, and they’ll have at least two flights a day. So, there is a loss in terms of the number of flights but it’s pretty minor.
The other group will be less happy. These are cities that had both US Airways and Delta service before, but they’ll now be losing US Airways completely. In return, these cities will get more flights from Delta, but not enough to replace what was lost by US Airways. It also means there’s one less competitor in the market. Here’s the full list:
Little Cities, Big Losers
It’s time to talk about the bad news. There are some cities that are just getting wrecked here. In general, the plan is this. These cities have service from US Airways today and that’s all going away. Delta’s either not coming to these cities or it’s adding a single, measly flight.
Basically, it sucks if you need to go between these cities and New York because your options are greatly reduced. There is one in this list that’s not like the others. That is Baltimore. Delta has declined to go into that market, and I know why. Southwest is the only other airline in the market. So people who need to fly between New York and Baltimore still have an option, but Southwest only has 3 flights in there. US Airways has 7 flights that are going away, so this market is taking a big hit. It’s just not as bad as those markets that lose absolutely everything. Here’s the list:
As you can see, there are some winners and some losers here. In general, the little cities are the odd men out, but many smaller cities do retain at least some service. It’s completely clear why Delta is doing this. It wants to make its slots at La Guardia as useful as possible, and that means serving larger markets. Delta is also upping its game at JFK (I wasn’t able to get the full details on that one yet), which will really make it so that Delta can adequately get anyone in New York to just about anywhere they need to go.
As I said above, this hurts American the most. American now becomes an even more distant third place in New York, and that’s even if you count JetBlue as its partner. For Delta, this is a smart way to use the slots. Of course, I say that as someone who doesn’t have to travel to Ithaca or Providence.