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

Jun 8, 2020

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Delta Air Lines is wasting no time in suspending service to more cities now that it has U.S. authorities’ blessing to exit more markets as passenger numbers remain at historic lows due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Atlanta-based SkyTeam Alliance carrier will end service to 11 smaller cities across the U.S. on July 8, Delta said Friday. In addition, it will drop service to Ottawa (YOW) in Canada on June 21.

The suspensions follow the finalization of the Department of Transportation’s new round of waivers to the flight schedule requirements of the federal government’s coronavirus aid package, known as the CARES Act. Airlines including Delta were granted exemptions from serving five cities or 5% of those on their map — whichever number was higher — through Sept. 30. The exemptions are also the last that the regulator will grant.

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Delta will end service to the following 11 U.S. cities:

  • Aspen, Colorado (ASE)
  • Bangor, Maine (BGR)
  • Erie, Pennsylvania (ERI)
  • Flint, Michigan (FNT)
  • Fort Smith, Arkansas (FSM)
  • Lincoln, Nebraska (LNK)
  • New Bern, North Carolina (EWN)
  • Peoria, Illinois (PIA)
  • Santa Barbara, California (SBA)
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (AVP)
  • Williston, North Dakota (XWA)

Delta told staff in an internal memo on June 5 viewed by TPG that it will re-evaluate service to these U.S. destinations after Sept. 30, when the CARES Act restrictions end. At the same time, the airline will also evaluate whether to resume flights to 10 airports in metropolitan areas with multiple airports where it has already suspended flights.

Sandy Gordon, senior vice president of domestic airport operations, told employees in the memo that Delta will re-evaluate its “overall network needs” come October.

Delta is ending service to Ottawa “indefinitely,” said Gordon. It has also temporarily suspended service to Saskatoon (YXE) in Canada.

Related: U.S. allows Alaska, Delta, United and others to drop flights to 75 cities

 

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The air service suspensions come even as travelers slowly trickle back onto planes. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 441,255 people on June 7, its latest data shows. This is the most since people began staying home in large numbers due to COVID-19 in March, but it remains below a fifth of the number screened on the same day a year ago.

U.S. airlines have slowly been adding flights back after deep cuts in April and May. In July, American Airlines will fly 55% of the domestic schedule it flew a year ago, Delta just over 38%, Southwest Airlines over 62% and United Airlines nearly 30%, according to Cirium schedules.

Carriers with larger domestic franchises, like American and Southwest, are faring better as domestic travel is recovering faster than international.

Related: American to reopen lounges, add flights to Florida, Rockies as flyers return

The DOT is allowing American to suspend service to four more cities: Aspen, Montrose (MTJ) and Vail (EGE) in Colorado, and Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH). However, it is only suspending flights to Worcester from June 8 through at least Sept. 30, Cirium schedules show.

United won exemptions from serving 11 cities: Allentown (ABE), Chattanooga (CHA), Fairbanks (FAI), Hilton Head (HHH), Ithaca (ITH), Kalamazoo (AZO), Key West (EYW), Lansing (LAN), Myrtle Beach (MYR), Rochester, Minnesota (RST) and St. Thomas (STT). The airline plans to suspend flights to all of the cities except St. Thomas through Aug. 3, according to Cirium schedules.

Southwest has continued to serve all of the cities on its map and sought no air service waivers. This is not to say the Dallas-based carrier has not adjusted its map, with plans to fly 100 fewer routes by year end.

Related: A complete list of major carriers’ coronavirus change and cancellation policies

Travelers whose flights are affected by the suspensions can refund or change their tickets without a fee.

Of course, schedules at American, Delta, United and most carriers are subject to change and flights could resume — or be suspended — at any of the cities where they have received DOT waivers.

And, come Oct. 1, the maps for the three carriers could change dramatically as the airlines adapt to less demand — particularly for international travel — for the foreseeable future.

Analysts at Cowen expect U.S. airlines to shrink their mainline fleets by as many as 1,000 jets, or 21% of their combined fleets, after the pandemic passes. This will result in fewer older, gas-guzzling models but also means less air service for travelers.

Related: US airlines may have to retire 1,000 jets; these are the ones that could end up in the boneyard.

Featured image by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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