Delta adds 5 new routes from LAX, Atlanta as rivals expand in the West

Sep 21, 2020

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The battle for outdoors-bound travelers is heating up. Delta Air Lines has joined the fray, adding five new routes to western cities that are seeing a flurry of new air service during the coronavirus pandemic.

The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will add new service between its Atlanta (ATL) base and both Boise (BOI) and Spokane (GEG) beginning Nov. 20, according to Cirium schedules. Delta will also add new flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and Fresno (FAT), Palm Springs (PSP) and Reno (RNO) on the same day.

The additions come as Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines are also pushing into many cities in the western U.S. as they vie for the limited number of travelers flying during the pandemic. Alaska and JetBlue are both positioning for a bigger slice of the LAX pie while Southwest — already the largest airline in California — plans to add Palm Springs to its map by the end of the year.

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Air travel in the U.S. remains down significantly compared to a year ago. While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened a pandemic high of 968,673 people on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, numbers have fallen back below 800,000 a day except for odd Fridays and Sundays.

Analysts at Cowen do not expect screenings to surpass 1 million people a day until the end-of-year holidays.

Those who are traveling are primarily going to destinations where they can social distance. Places with wide open spaces, like beaches, mountains and national parks — the western U.S. is especially well-known for the latter two — have seen higher travel numbers than elsewhere around the country.

Delta’s primary gateway to the West, its Salt Lake City (SLC) hub where a new terminal opened on Sept. 15, has seen the fewest cuts of its U.S. hubs. The airline will fly about three-quarters of what it flew from the hub in September compared to a year ago, Cirium schedules show. Systemwide, Delta will fly just 43% of what it flew during the month a year ago.

Related: Salt Lake City airport, Delta to open new canyon-inspired terminal

Delta’s new Atlanta routes will connect two growing western destinations to its largest hub. In addition, it will resume seasonal winter flights to Reno on Nov. 20.

The three Los Angeles routes will pit it against a myriad of competitors. Alaska has added Fresno flights and will add Reno this winter, and JetBlue is adding Reno flights this fall. American Airlines, Southwest and United Airlines already fly LAX-Reno, while United also flies LAX-Fresno and LAX-Palm Springs, Cirium schedules show.

It is unclear yet whether there are enough travelers to fill all of the new flights as the pandemic continues. However, airlines are repeatedly showing a willingness to try new things in the hope of boosting revenues, particularly when they have hundreds of planes sitting idle in storage. Whether these routes stick around is anyone’s guess.

Related: Delta will block seats into January as it tries to boost traveler confidence

In addition to its western additions, Delta will add new service between its Detroit (DTW) hub and Bloomington/Normal (BMI) in Illinois on Oct. 20, according to Cirium. The flight will operate five-days-a-week on a Bombardier CRJ200 with 50 seats.

Not all the news is good. Delta is ending service to Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH) on Sept. 30 — the day that air service protections under the federal coronavirus aid package, or CARES Act, expire. American has also indefinitely suspended service to Worcester leaving JetBlue the only airline serving the airport.

Below are details of Delta’s new routes, according to Cirium schedules.

  • Atlanta – Boise: one daily flight on a Boeing 737-800 from Nov. 20
  • Atlanta – Reno: resuming one daily flight on a Boeing 757-200 from Nov. 20
  • Atlanta – Spokane: one daily flight on a 737-800 from Nov. 20
  • Detroit – Bloomington/Normal: one flight five-days-a-week on a CRJ200 from Oct. 11
  • Los Angeles – Fresno: one daily flight on an Embraer E175 from Nov. 20
  • Los Angeles – Palm Springs: one daily flight on an E175 from Nov. 20
  • Los Angeles – Reno: one daily flight on an E175 from Nov. 20, increasing to two daily flights from Dec. 19

Related: Delta is suspending service to 12 more destinations in US, Canada

Featured image by David McNew/Getty Images.




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