Delta brings back 2 Salt Lake City routes in jab at United
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Throughout the pandemic, airlines have been busy adjusting route maps to find pockets of leisure-focused demand.
One of the latest moves comes from Delta Air Lines, which is bringing back two Salt Lake City (SLC) routes it last flew years ago, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.
Beginning on May 5, Delta plans to resume once-daily flights to Moab, Utah (CNY), for the first time since April 2015. Delta Connection partner SkyWest Airlines will fly a 50-seat CRJ-200 on the route, which is slated to run through October.
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One week later, Delta will start service to Durango, Colorado (DRO). These twice-daily flights will also be operated by SkyWest Airlines on a CRJ-200 and run at least through February 2022.
The Durango flights will technically mark a service resumption for Delta, though the carrier hasn’t flown the route in nearly 13 years.
Delta’s regional expansion from Salt Lake City makes sense. Moab’s favorable location near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks make it a popular summer destination. As travelers take to the outdoors to minimize COVID transmission, airlines have been busy boosting flights to warm-weather cities and national parks.
Interestingly, Moab is an Essential Air Service (EAS) market, meaning that airlines can apply for subsidies from the federal government to serve the airport. SkyWest, operating as United Express, currently holds the EAS contract for its daily Denver flights, which runs through June 2023.
But for Delta, the new Moab route is part of a broader SLC expansion, even if it can’t get a subsidy.
The carrier is bolstering SLC’s connectivity to drive more traffic through one of the fastest-growing hubs in the Delta network. (It doesn’t hurt that the city’s new airport and Delta Sky Club are both destinations in and of themselves).
Salt Lake City traffic has proven quite resilient during the pandemic. Cirium timetables show that Delta dropped just about 7% of SLC flights in the fourth quarter of 2020 as compared to the same quarter in 2019. Networkwide, that number skyrockets to a whopping 63%.
In addition to positioning SLC as Delta’s gateway to the west, the routes will also pit the carrier against United, which flies to both Moab and Durango from its mega-hub in Denver. United has been on a major Denver-based expansion spree, boosting flights to Florida and other nearby regional destinations.
Like SLC for Delta, United’s Denver traffic hasn’t declined nearly as much as it has on the coasts. United has been busy growing Denver, though Delta’s push to add flights to Durango and Moab might signal that the carrier is serious about competing on one-stop itineraries to these smaller cities.
Both Delta and United can now offer flyers connecting flights to Moab and Durango. However, transiting in Denver will likely remain preferable for travelers coming from points to the east, since it minimizes the amount of backtracking.
Elsewhere, Delta is boosting two routes from its Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) hub. SkyWest Airlines, operating for Delta Connection, will fly to Lincoln, Nebraska (LNK), twice daily using the 50-seat CRJ-200 beginning May 26. The carrier last flew to LNK in July 2020, before suspending the route due to the pandemic.
Delta will also extend the schedule for its MSP to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), route, which was previously slated to wrap up in April. Now, the once-weekly Boeing 737 service will continue at least through February 2022.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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