Delta has suspended flights to 16 cities across the US because of coronavirus

Oct 14, 2020

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Delta Air Lines has suspended flights to 16 cities across the U.S., from Bangor near Maine’s craggy Atlantic coast to Lincoln in Nebraska’s rolling prairies.

The Atlanta-based carrier’s suspensions are an extensions of ones they made in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when the federal government allowed airlines to suspend a limited number of U.S. cities. However, Delta stands out continuing the flight hiatus in more cities for far longer than its competitors.

American Airlines and United Airlines also suspended a number of destinations in the early days of the pandemic but they have resumed flights to the vast majority of those airports. A TPG analysis of Cirium schedule data through September 2021 shows American only indefinitely out of Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH), and United out of Stockton, California (SCK). In addition, American has confirmed an exit from Oakland (OAK) and temporarily suspended flights to 11 small cities.

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The 16 cities that Delta has not set plans to return to are:

  • Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK)
  • Aspen, Colorado (ASE)
  • Bangor, Maine (BGR)
  • Erie, Pennsylvania (ERI)
  • Flint, Michigan (FNT)
  • Fort Smith, Arkansas (FSM)
  • Lincoln, Nebraska (LNK)
  • Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT)
  • New Bern, North Carolina (EWN)
  • Newburgh/Stewart, New York (SWF)
  • Newport News/Williamsburg, Virginia (PHF)
  • Peoria, Illinois (PIA)
  • Santa Barbara (SBA)
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania (AVP)
  • Williston, North Dakota (XWA)
  • Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH)

“At this time we do not have a date to resume service to these markets,” Delta spokesperson Drake Castañeda told TPG. “We are continuously monitoring demand trends and are rebuilding our network as demand resumes.”

Related: Airlines expect a post-coronavirus boom in leisure travel, they just don’t know when

Delta could resume flights to any of these cities at any given time. The airline has been finalizing its monthly schedules about 30 days out. This means a city that has no flights today could see service resume in December with only about a month’s notice.

Still, the indefinite nature of the suspensions only adds weight to the uncertainty of the recovery. U.S. airlines have made deep cuts to their November schedules — the latest month that is finalized — with flying due to be about 40% less than the same period in 2019, Cirium shows.

Data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows that U.S. domestic travel was down 63% year-over-year during the week ending Oct. 4.

Related: Thanksgiving a bust? Airlines slash November schedules as demand sputters

“Every city has it own little story,” Joe Esposito, senior vice president of network planning at Delta, said during the Boyd International Aviation Forecast Summit on Sept. 12. In other words, air travelers are coming back differently in every market.

Esposito pointed to Delta’s hubs in New York and Salt Lake City as examples. Flights in New York will be at about a quarter of 2019 levels in November as local travel remains depressed. But Salt Lake City will be at roughly 90% of last year in response to a strong return in flying out West.

Delta only served two of the 16 cities it has suspended indefinitely — Aspen and Santa Barbara — from Salt Lake City, according to Cirium.

Related: Airlines are flying some unexpected routes during the pandemic

For the time being, Delta appears to be more focused on restoring traveler confidence in flying than in restoring destinations. Delta CEO Ed Bastian spoke of continuing to block middle seats through January and about other safety measures during the airline’s third quarter earnings call on Oct. 13.

“We carry at Delta more than one million people per week and have no documented transmissions onboard our aircraft,” he said, citing recent findings by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

However, things remain tough for airlines. Delta delayed its goal of ending daily losses by year-end to spring and will only fly about 40% to 45% of what it flew a year ago in the fourth quarter — just three points more than the three months that ended in September.

Related: Delta CEO talks recovery, says we ‘have no documented transmissions onboard our aircraft’

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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