Delta Lowers Fares in Cincinnati, but How Much?

Delta, Fares

Last week, Delta announced that it would lower its fares at its Cincinnati hub. I’m sure this is a last ditch effort to save the hub from being dismantled, but somehow I doubt it will work. Still, it does mean that there are finally some more affordable fares out there for travelers. But how much more affordable will they be, exactly?

I took one route, Cincinnati to Los Angeles and picked it apart with the help of Rick Seaney over at, a consumer airline ticket comparison website, to show exactly what kind of discounts we’re talking about here. The verdict? It’s substantial. Let me give you an idea of what I mean. Below, I’ve put together a table with various scenarios of how far in advance someone is booking and how long they would be staying. You can see the new fare structure is significantly cheaper. (These are the published fares and don’t include all taxes, but those would apply equally before and after the change, so the savings are still accurate.)

Delta New Cincinnati Fares to LAX

As you can see, the cuts have come across the board. This ignores all sales fares, so it’s entirely possible that you could get some cheaper fares for advance purchase travel, but this is still a very significant reduction. As I said, it appears to be a last effort to save Cincinnati from its demise as a hub. It’s been said that both Detroit and Cincinnati are showing greater weakness than others for Delta during this economic downturn, and I’m sure that Detroit is in a better position to remain a hub than Cincinnati. Delta must be hoping that this will help the airport become more competitive with surrounding low fare airports like Dayton and Louisville.

For those who want to geek out more, here’s the full comparison by fare basis for Delta’s new and old structures between Cincinnati and LA.

Delta Cincinnati - LA Fare Details

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25 comments on “Delta Lowers Fares in Cincinnati, but How Much?

  1. I don’t get it. Why would Delta cut their fares at one of their own hubs to “save the hub?” Sounds to me like internal management at Delta may have a connection to Cincinnati that is more than just business. If a temporary pump up in the passenger numbers can “save” a hub operation I don’t think Delta management has the best intentions in mind for the future success of their airline. Looks an awful lot like merger squabbling over the possibility that the NW hub at DTW being the victor over the Delta hub at CVG? Waiting now for a price slashing at MEM….

  2. A – Because the hub really doesn’t have a good reason to exist anymore with all the other hubs surrounding it after the Northwest merger, Delta had to come up with some reason to try and justify all those flights. So now they’re focusing on the local traveler, building up the base, so that more flights can appear profitable. You don’t slash fares if you’re existing setup isn’t working for you. So I think this is Delta’s attempt to keep Cincinnati running in some form.

  3. Its about time Delta did this. Hopefully we’ll see the same sort of reductions on other flights of theirs as well in the near future. I’ve been finding their fares a little too high lately

  4. I assume that dehubbing CVG would see it lose its international flights as well? Have the same fare cuts been applied to these routes?

  5. Simon – No, it specifically says domestic flights only. There aren’t many international operations here – just London and Paris I believe along with some Canada.

  6. If Cincinnati has less reason to be a major part of the Delta system, the same presumably applies to Memphis which as A points out might also soon see some significant locally-originating fare cuts.

    Would this therefore imply that fares originating in Minneapolis and possibly Atlanta and Detroit might be raised a little, since more traffic will be going through these hubs and there is less reliance on local traffic ?

  7. David – I tend to agree that Memphis will lose its hub status as well. Of course, Delta can’t do that until it wins its battle with Atlanta. It needs to keep the threat of moving flights to Memphis in its back pocket. I doubt we’ll see massive fare increases in any hub right now thanks to the declining economy, but we probably aren’t going to see the new low fare structure over there except in situations where there’s low cost competition.

    Wow, you’re right. I thought Amsterdam and Frankfurt were killed off, but I guess not. They’re still in the schedule.

  8. Delta recently closed concourse C, used for connecting flights. Considering this concourse offered smooth operations for connection traffic, I think it is a sign of Cincy’s dire situation. It’s unfortunate in that it is a great, albeit expensive as hell, alternative to ATL. As a flight attendant, I used to love working the Cincy system in that my pax arrived to the gate on time, no ATC ground stop delays, ground personnel and gate agents with a great work ethic… I miss it so.

  9. Cranky – forgive me an ignorant enquiry. Can you explain the rationale behind the airlines fleecing us for NOT staying over a Saturday night? Where do they loose out if they didn’t charge the exorbitant fares for short stay flights?

  10. A Saturday night stay is a way to separate higher paying business travelers, out from lower paying discretionary travelers. Most business travelers want to be home for the weekend, where most people who are more price sensitive, (their company isn’t footing the bill,) tend to travel over weekends, and can usually add a Saturday night stay. It’s an easy way to segment these two very different types of travelers and maximize revenue.

  11. If this a reduction for fares originating in Cincinnati, could it be that some folks in Delta think Southwest has it’s eye on moving into town. It’s a good sized market and they’re neither in Cincinnati nor Dayton. And with the merger going on, SWA may smell an opportunity to make their way into the market as the further into this process Delta and NWA get, the more they’ll be concentrating on rationalizing their routes and getting NWA’s unions to not be so grumpy (not that I can blame them given NWA’s management over the years) and other concerns rather than fighting a turf war at CVG. Maybe a preemptive strike by Delta while they can?

  12. Southwest should be looking at Memphis or CVG. Granted they have been picking on United and Frontier of late. If they continue their chase of business travelers strategy, BOS, CLT, and ATL have to be on their radar, the major holes in their system for the high yield business travelers. LGA is an interesting start. My one question for Southwest, or Air Tran for that matter, why has neither ever purchased a larger 737-800 or 737-900, which has a lower CASM than their 737-700’s, but completely compatible with their fleets? Cranky, ever ask Gary that?

  13. Bobber – What Randy said.

    Allen – I’ve been betting on Southwest for a long time, but they wouldn’t make a preemptive move for them. They should be trying to maximize revenue, and clearly they think they aren’t doing that right now. If Southwest comes in, they can always match immediately, and Southwest knows that will happen. So there isn’t much use in beating them to the punch.

  14. All the 737 types in the Southwest fleet have 150 seats and require an additional flight attendant. I would assume it’s more efficient crew scheduling with the same compliment of flight attendants on every aircraft type.

  15. correction special characters greater than and less than didn’t print above

    All the 737 types in the Southwest fleet have LESS than 150 seats. The 737 800 and 900 series typically have MORE than 150 seats and that requires an additional flight attendant. I would assume it is more efficient crew scheduling with the same compliment of flight attendants on every aircraft type.

  16. Southwest is also big on high frequency flying in their markets, so they don’t necessarily want more capacity on a single plane like Ryanair does.

  17. Southwest is always big on frequency, but not every route really demands that. Maybe a route to Orlando that doesn’t have many business travelers which means frequency won’t really draw in higher yield business travelers, but the lower yield high volume tourists could be more efficiently carried on a larger plane, Ryanair style. It is interesting that unlike Ryanair, Southwest doesn’t try to pull all the ancillary revenue, unlike Allegiant as well. Interesting thought about the flight attendent compliment on a plane, but I wonder how big of a deal that really is with the lowest paid members of the crew. Jet Blue pulled their A320’s down from 162 to 150 which dropped the FA’s on board to only three, but I would be curious about the cost benefit ratio of not having that fourth FA on board when load factors are north of 80%, and they have 12 less seats to sell.

  18. Cranky, I still don’t get why Delta would slash fares “because the hub really doesn’t have a good reason to exist anymore.” I think it should be very obvious to Delta that CVG has gotta go as a hub, unless it’s highly profitable, which nothing indicates as such. It makes more sense for them to do this if they’re trying to keep out competition like Southwest. Only someone local to Cincy would have a strong deisre to keep a lot of flights at CVG and why I still see this as more an emotional move instead of business.

  19. A – Delta made a promise that it would keep all its hubs when the Northwest merger was going through. Now, I laughed when I heard that and knew it wouldn’t be true, but they have to make some sort of effort to see if they can salvage it. For many traditional airlines, the low fare structure brings in less revenue than the traditional structure, and that’s why we don’t see widespread adoption of it. But, that’s not always the case. When I was at America West in 2002, we realized that by converting to a low fare structure, we could actually increase revenues. After we made the change, our revenues actually far exceeded our initial projections and that made the hub that much more profitable. Delta clearly isn’t happy with the state of the Cincinnati hub, but they still have a lot invested there. I think it’s smart to try anything in your toolkit to see if you can improve revenues and make it profitable. Will this work? I highly doubt it. But at least they can say they tried when everyone in Cincinnati calls them out for lying about their promise to stay in town.

  20. I was very skeptical of this fare change when it happened. However, Cincinnati flights have been substantially more booked.

  21. I am not sure about the cinci hub staying, however people underestimate cincinnati. It is one of the most underrated cities on the planet. Cincinnati is a leader as far as companies go with 10 fortune 500 companies based here. That is tied with minneapolis as the most in the midwest. Delta is very smart to have two hubs with so many companies. Business travelers keep airlines afloat, and both these hubs have many. Also, Cincinnati has more population than MEM and SLC, something people don’t understand. I can see why Delta is trying to keep Cincinnati. Its a city thats surprisingly big with an excellent airport. Cincinnati is actually a very profitable hub. I am very thankful for delta to see something in this city that other people don’t. Cincinnati is not a small midwest city. I am glad to see delta lowering their fares. THANKYOU DELTA!!!!

  22. Delta has always had a weird relationship with Cincinnati. Maybe someone is receiveing kickbacks for the no competetion market created in Cincinnati. This is why Ohio is one of the worst states to do
    business. And perhaps that explains the unemployment rates there.
    That area of the country believes in few fat cats making money. Change is very difficult for Cincinnati.

  23. Please get Delta out of here and bring in Southwest!!!!! At least the flight attendants will talk to you on Southwest!!!!!

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