I’ve already picked apart Southwest and American. Now it’s time to look at Delta network with a magnifying glass. The week-over-week schedule changes are harder to compare now that things have changed so many times. Instead, I opted to pick a single week in the middle of May (May 13 – 19) and compare it to the same days of week the year before. Thanks to Diio by Cirium and Great Circle Mapper, I’ve been able to piece together Delta’s current strategy.
Very Little Over the Oceans, But Some Going South
We can start with international, but a map doesn’t really help much here. Delta has pulled down to a very low level of flying over the oceans. Across the Atlantic, Delta is connecting with its joint venture partner hubs flying to Amsterdam from Atlanta and Detroit, to London from Atlanta and New York/JFK, and to Paris from Atlanta. All flights are once daily. It is also running 5 a week from JFK to Tel Aviv and 4 a week from Atlanta to Lagos.
Going over the Pacific, flying is even more sparse. From Detroit, there are five weekly flights to Seoul/Incheon and three to Tokyo/Haneda. Seattle has three weekly flights to each. That’s everything.
Down into the Caribbean and Latin America, there is a little more service. Nearly all of it is from Atlanta with the exception of a daily flight from Salt Lake to both Cancun and Mexico City as well as a couple of flights each day from JFK to the Dominican Republic and sub-daily flights from Los Angeles to Guatemala, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose (Costa Rica).
Really, international is a skeleton and isn’t nearly as interesting as the domestic world.
Culling the Focus Cities
Delta hasn’t been short of ideas the last few years in trying to colonize focus cities for its own gain. Those are effectively gone in the May schedule. Remember Raleigh/Durham?
Buh bye. It now only has flights to Atlanta, Detroit, and Minneapolis/St Paul. Or how about the old Cincinnati hub?
It’s not even a focus city anymore with only service to a handful of the remaining Delta hubs.
Oh, and Boston? Well, that’s held on just a bit more.
Don’t get too excited. Boston is still down to only serving Delta hubs, but unlike the others, this includes service to New York and Los Angeles. So… there’s that.
There was talk of Nashville and Austin becoming focus cities at one point, but there’s nothing to see there either. It’s all the same story. These focus cities are gone.
New York Gets Slashed But Not as Much As Others Have Done
Like every other airline, Delta has gotten in on the act of slashing New York service. Its place at the epicenter of the US outbreak means that demand is even less than the already nearly non-existent demand around the rest of the country. Still, Delta is holding on to more of a presence than I would have expected.
At JFK, you’ve already seen that Delta has slashed international flying. With that gone, it leaves little reason for domestic feed, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t non-hub routes still flying.
You can see San Francisco on the list along with several Florida destinations plus San Juan. There’s also, the New York trio of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse still hanging on. That sounds like a political special to me. Oh, and don’t forget Bangor. I assume there are some guarantees provided by the city or someone up there to keep it flying.
LaGuardia, strangely enough, has been cut back much further.
Other than the shuttle to Boston and Washington/National, LaGuardia is only serving the other hubs. The decision to keep upstate New York operating from JFK but not LaGuardia tells me that this is about some kind of international feed. Whatever Schumer wants, Schumer gets, I assume.
The West Coast Fares Better Than Expected
The big surprise to me is just how much of the West Coast networks stays intact. In fact, for Seattle, it makes sense to just show you the flights that are going away.
The flights that are disappearing from Seattle are longer haul, thinner routes for the most part. These are spots that can be better served from other hubs, or by co-terminals in the same city. This is far less of a cut than I would have expected to see, especially when so many of these routes could be served via Salt Lake.
Down the coast, there’s another surprise in Los Angeles.
Beyond the hubs, Delta will continue to fly to places like Albuquerque, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, and Tucson. American and United have both gutted LAX in the short run, but Delta apparently sees more opportunity. I can’t say I understand it.
The Hubs In the Middle Serve Their Regions
What’s left are Delta’s four inland hubs: Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis/St Paul, and Salt Lake City. Though these hubs do stretch beyond their own regions, the cancellations you see from each are mostly to longer, thinner destinations. Let’s start with Atlanta.
It’s pretty unmistakable what’s happening here. The canceled flights are mostly to the north and west of Atlanta. Those are cities which can all be served by the other inland hubs.
Here’s Salt Lake City.
Cedar City is an anomaly. The airport is closing its runway for maintenance, so that had to go away. The only surprise here is that Salt Lake loses El Paso service. It will retain service only from Atlanta during this period. Maybe that’s a military or government need. But the rest of this focuses on cities that can be served from other hubs.
Let’s go to Detroit next.
You can see these are mostly southern cities better-served from Atlanta, midwestern cities better served from Minneapolis/St Paul, and a couple smaller cities better served through Salt Lake or elsewhere.
With these maps coming together, you might think that Minneapolis/St Paul would feel squeezed in the middle. You would be right. Of all the inland hubs, MSP saw the biggest cuts.
That’s quite the reduction, and it’s what I would have expected to see elsewhere. You can see most of the Mountain West is being left for Salt Lake with many eastern flights going from Detroit.
What does this tell us? Well, it’s the same strategy other hub-and-spoke airlines are using, but it doesn’t go nearly as far as I’d expect it should. Delta will still be running just shy of 1,400 flights per day that May week. Last year it ran more than 5,500 per day.
Even with aircraft downgauging, this is still seeing Delta operate more than 20 percent the number of seats it flew last year. That’s going to result in a whole lot of… empty seats.
United said it was going to cut flights by 90 percent for May. That happened over the weekend, but it hasn’t loaded into Diio by Cirium yet. Once it does, I’ll take a look.