Delta eyes mid-2020 move to Beijing’s new airport, expansion in Seoul

Sep 30, 2019

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Delta Air Lines is evaluating a move to the new Beijing Daxing airport, as the focus remains on growing to its partner hubs in Asia.

The SkyTeam alliance carrier is working at getting “optimal slots” at the massive Daxing (PKX) airport in time for a mid-2020 launch, Delta senior vice-president of network planning Joe Esposito told TPG. The airport was officially opened by Chinese president Xi Jinping last Wednesday.

While Delta cannot add flights to Beijing under the existing agreement between the U.S. and China, Daxing is set to become a hub for its partner China Eastern Airlines. A move would enable easier connections between the two carriers.

Related: China’s president opens Beijing’s massive new Daxing airport

Delta made a similar move to the new Satellite Terminal at Shanghai Pudong (PVG) over the weekend. The move improves the experience for its passengers — Esposito said flights will now use terminal gates rather than remote bus stands — and facilitate easier connections with China Eastern.

But Delta is able to add flights in Seoul, which will remain the focus of its growth efforts in Asia. Incheon airport (ICN), home to its joint-venture partner Korean Air, has room for Delta to add routes and expand frequencies, said Esposito.

“We’re very pro-growth in joint ventures,” he said. “We want to make sure we maximize our networks together.”

Already, Delta added flights between Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) and Incheon in April of this year. In March 2020, it will move its Manila (MNL) flights to Incheon from Tokyo Narita (NRT). The airline also serves Seoul from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW) and Seattle/Tacoma (SEA), according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

Related: The Rise and Fall of Delta’s Tokyo Hub

Possible Seoul additions include a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) that would complement Korean Air’s double-daily service, as well as a potential Salt Lake City (SLC) nonstop, said Esposito.

Delta also continues to wait for a U.S. Department of Transportation decision on its application to begin service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Shanghai next June. The flight would use a daily allotment of U.S.-China frequencies returned by American Airlines in June.

The carrier does not have an update on its application since American returned the frequencies, said Esposito.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Delta is comfortable with its footprint. Mumbai (BOM) flights resume after a four-year hiatus in December, and the airline is comfortable with the level of service it and partner Virgin Australia provide to to Australia, he said. Delta plans to grow its international capacity by roughly 4% year-over-year in 2020.

Virgin Australia general manager of network management Russell Shaw echoed Esposito’s view with TPG at the World Routes conference in Adelaide, Australia, at the end of September.

“We’re happy where we are at the moment,” he said of the airline’s joint capacity to North America with Delta.

Delta and Virgin Australia, which have a joint venture between Australia and the U.S., offer up to four daily flights between Los Angeles and Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL) and Sydney (SYD), Diio schedules show.

Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.

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