Delta’s recent pulldown of Transatlantic flights was fairly breathtaking in its scope, but it also showed just how joint ventures can influence decisions. Delta is increasing reliance on partners, and that’s not something it might have considered doing as much without its joint venture. Let’s take a look.
Most of the flight cuts (except for some Middle East moves that have already happened) start in September, after the summer rush. Delta had told us this would come since Transatlantic flights had seen a big increase in capacity that just wasn’t sustainable at current oil prices and off-peak demand levels. So, the cuts came and they run deep. Some, like Memphis and Seattle to Amsterdam, just see cuts in frequency. That will drop from daily to four weekly. Others will see changes in the size of the airplane used. Still others will see their summer seasonal runs clipped early (like Keflavik, Iceland which will now end in September). But there is also a list of destinations that will drop off the Delta route map, or at least lose service to one of Delta’s hubs. Over the last couple months, here’s what we’ve seen happen:
This isn’t a tiny pulldown. It’s actually pretty significant. It’s also a very interesting turn of events. I mean, this is Delta, the airline that likes to throw airplanes all over the globe even if it doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. Granted, that’s usually because it wants to just gives things a shot to see if they work. Apparently, a lot of these routes don’t work, at least not during the lean winter.
But what is most interesting to me is how the joint venture with Air France/KLM has to have influenced this. Now, Delta can still easily serve every one of those cities via Amsterdam or Paris by connecting with its partner Air France/KLM. Sure, it could have done that before when it just had a codeshare, but that was different. Back then, it couldn’t have coordinated schedules with Air France/KLM. It couldn’t have looked at connecting flows and fares between the two airlines to come up with the best way to serve each city. Now it can, and that’s exactly what it’s doing.
The question, of course, is whether or not this is good for travelers. It certainly means less competition and fewer nonstops from the US to Europe. That seems bad. But on the other hand, these are routes that probably are losing money anyway, so they really shouldn’t be flown, at least not by this airline. It might take Delta loyalists in New York an extra stop by get to Stockholm now, but they can choose from several connecting options through multiple hubs, so there still is a significant amount of choice. Flying nonstop just isn’t one of them.