Delta Increases Reliance on Partners, Cuts Transatlantic Flights


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:

Delta Fall Europe Route Changes

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.

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23 comments on “Delta Increases Reliance on Partners, Cuts Transatlantic Flights

  1. I am sure a reduction in mainline delta domestic flying replaced by regional outsourcing with their awful service will follow.

    1. You have no idea what you’re talking about – this has nothing to do with domestic flying or capacity.

      These moves do make sense, especially given that the reduction in capacity should drive up fares. I am a little surprised to see CDG-PHL go though (unless AF also serves this route) since they are both large cities, especially with AF in Paris.

      1. I read this as Delta is reducing capacity or altogether dropping routes that are not profitable. This example is transatlatic, but anyone that has flown Delta frequently over the past several years knows fully well they’ve done the same to their domestic route structure – much of it being outsourced to regionals, which once upon a time were mainline jets.

        1. Actually, this will probably mean moving several 757s from the transatlantic routes to upgauge flights like transcons to LAX, SFO and SEA. This will mean give more 737s/320s/MD90s to replace the DC9s that are left in service.
          If anything, fewer of the smaller RJs (ERJs) will be flying since they are inefficient.

  2. Interesting post. Wonder where we’ll see the 767s used on these routes end up? The desert? Returned to the lessor? Or used domestically on DL routes?

    This is certainly a change in Delta’s post-bankruptcy strategy, all right. However, given the cost of fuel, it’s certainly time to be conservative.

    1. I do recall Delta saying it would park some 767s. Other 767s will take over for 757s and I assume 757s will go domestic. Delta has been doing more shuffling as a result of this, so it definitely has a plan of how this will play out.

  3. Delta has been making others moves to closely align themselves with their JV partners too. Economy Comfort was done to match those partners. They just changed their baggage fees to match too…

    On this side of the pond…Delta is trying to shed regional capacity as soon as possible, as well. Unfortunately, contracts dictate quickly that can be done. That’s why you still see some “Delta Dartboard” type routes out of places such as RDU and MIA.

    1. Well, sort of. Economy Comfort matches what KLM does, but Air France went a completely different way and put a true premium economy product onboard. So there’s some alignment but not completely.

  4. I thought the combined DL/NW was supposed to make tons of money (and differentiate themselves from the competition) via their extensive x-atl service? IIRC, they wanted to bulk up at JFK (naturally), create new markets by flying nonstop from the US to secondary foreign cities, and creating new nonstop service to Europe from non-focus cities (e.g., MIA, PIT). Maybe this will increase some loads but diverting traffic to connecting routes served by partners will not significantly bump up their bottom line relative to serving the same px on DL brand flights.

    Granted, DL always flew some odd x-atl routes anyway but this reversal still represents a decided departure from a strategy they slathered all over their financial statements, press releases, etc. for more than a year (maybe two years).

    Plus, if DL isn’t careful, UA/CO might finally start to pay attention to their x-atl service now that they have east coast strongholds at IAD and EWR plus ORD (which should, in total, represent better O&D markets than DL’s ATL and JFK hubs).

  5. Delta would be smart to use this temporary downturn to reconfigure its aircraft with their new business class. They have spent so much time touting it for years, yet the conversions are occurring at a snail’s pace. Too many people are see ads for lie flat seats only to end up sitting in their obsolete cabins that haven’t been converted yet.

  6. DL tried to be everywhere on the map with service, but was it all really needed? Just how many people want to fly nonstop JFK-Pisa, Italy on a 767 3 or 4 times a years depending on the season.

  7. While lines on a route map may look impressive, it’s not always an indicator of prifitability. I feel (and I could be quite wrong in this observation) that some routes are added merely to gratify egos or make an airline look like something it’s not (AWA to Japan is an example). Routes are not always added in a logical manner. That’s why the process of consolidation and route restructuring is often called “rationalization.”

    In math, rationalizing an equation means to put it into simpler terms (i.e. simplifying is the same as “solving” a math problem). In a transportation context, it has the similar meaning of making one’s service levels the correct size, more profitable and more efficient by simplifying them; i.e. making them more “rational.”

    More and more, today’s airline managers are focused on profitability and rationality, not size and market share. Delta is far larger than Alaska, but is it more profitable? Size doesn’t always matter.

  8. Um, I find the map really hard to read. The red against that map just doesn’t work well.

    Although, I think Delta just needs to add a slingshot to get people across the pond to their intended destinations. Plus, you can leave whenever you’d like.

  9. I see there is a lot of guess work on the major changes DELTA is doing to it’s air service both domestically and Internationally. I agree that the rising fuel costs must have an impact on those decisions. Use of equipment and passenger load also. So, these are business decisions, OK.

    However, as a frequent flyer who goes overseas frequently and domestic often I am sad to see DELTA severly limit the destinations it now services. As a frequent flyer a couple of things stick out to me. If I had a poor opinion of SKY MILE seat availability previously I can only cringe at what availability will be like in the future with a growing list of limited offering of flights and smaller aircraft to the destinations that remain. Additionally, relying on Air France to cover a lot of their international business is questionable. Amsterdam and Paris are as bad or worse to use as connections in winter as Atlanta is domestically. I predict a lot of missed connections for Delta flyers as a starter. AND, AF has a bad reputation for losing luggage in Paris as well.

    A lot of the recent changes/cuts at DELTA make me wonder if history is repeating itself. It makes me remember the downward slide of EASTERN AIRLINES in the last years of service. Guess that time will tell.

    I am the first to admit that I may be wrong on my views and opinion of the continuing service cuts at DELTA, but I do not share the confidence that Cranky has in DELTA management.

  10. “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.”

    If flying from New York to Stockholm or Copenhagen is important to you, this is how Delta loyalists become CO/UA loyalists since they are still running non-stops from Newark.

    1. plus all of the SAS flights in star alliance to scandinavia, including nonstops to CPH (from IAD, EWR and ORD), ARN (from EWR and ORD) and OSL (from EWR).

  11. I think the map says DL is dropping JFK – MAN and for me personally, that is terrible, awful, desperately bad news. I fly this route at least 9 times a year. I also agree that AF and Paris are horrible options. And that Skymiles rewards and upgrade options will suffer too. Bad move, Delta. (I’m Diamond and MM).

  12. Interesting stuff to be sure. Edit my good man, EDIT. If not, hire an editor. It is important. Thank you.

  13. Delta has been trying to mimic the success of Continental for a while and while I commend them fro trying, they just don’t have the market… yet. Putting a 767 on these routes does not make sense, but I guess they found this out.

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