Delta cuts 9 routes, adds 7 others in sweeping route-map shakeup

Feb 9, 2021

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The route-map adjustments keep coming.

Throughout the pandemic, and especially in recent weeks, airlines have been nimbly responding to changing demand patterns, boosting flights to leisure destinations and cutting unprofitable business-oriented routes.

The latest move comes from Delta, which just made sweeping network changes in its latest schedule update.

Nine route cuts

Atlanta-based Delta is cutting nine routes at least through December, according to Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.

Four of the suspensions are for Florida service. Flights from Miami (MIA) to Orlando (MCO) and to Tampa (TPA) were slated to restart in June, but they’ve now been cut through 2021. A few of the flights could return eventually, but there’s no guarantee for all of them.

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Flights from West Palm Beach (PBI) to Boston (BOS) and to New York-JFK were on the books to restart in April, but those plans have now changed. Boston service is scrapped through the end of January 2022, while JFK flights will begin just in time for the holidays on Dec. 19.

The other five suspended routes — each originally slated to restart in April — touch one of Delta’s current or former hubs, and are listed below:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Burbank (BUR)
  • Atlanta (ATL) – Colorado Springs (COS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Columbus, Ohio (CMH)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) – Houston (IAH)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) – Phoenix (PHX)

According to the airline, “we’re continually adjusting our schedule based on the evolving nature of COVID-19 and changing demand trends. We will continue rebuilding our network as demand resumes in these markets.”

Some might be puzzled by Delta pulling routes from warm-weather and outdoor-friendly cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Phoenix and Colorado Springs, especially as other competitors add flights to those destinations.

Turns out, all the routes being cut have historically been poor performers for Delta. According to U.S. Department of Transporation data analyzed by Cirium, each of the suspended connections were in the bottom 50% of network-wide profitability the last year they operated. In fact, most were in the last quartile.

Seven new routes

Though Delta is trimming some routes, it’s adding seven others, five of which depart from its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, and are as follows:

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Portland, Maine (PWM)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Providence, Rhode Island (PVD)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Savannah/Hilton Head (SAV)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) – Traverse City, Michigan (TVC)

All of the MSP flights are technically resumptions for the carrier. However, some, like the new seasonal flight to Portland, Maine, haven’t flown since June 2009. MSP to Myrtle Beach last flew in March 2010, and the new seasonal Providence connection hasn’t been operated in over six years.

One clear trend across the five new routes is a focus on leisure destinations. Whether it’s a lakeside retreat in Traverse City or a round of 18 holes in Myrtle Beach, Delta is ready to take pandemic-weary travelers to warmer, outdoor-friendly destinations, all while strengthening its foothold in the Twin Cities as well.

Other airlines: American Airlines unveils major Miami expansion, another new route to Tel Aviv

Delta is also adding two new Los Angeles routes in a move that bolsters its presence in the ultra-competitive Southern California city.

LAX to Houston (IAH) begins on April 12, with twice-daily Airbus A220 service in each direction. Delta will face stiff competition from American, Spirit and United, though the carrier will fly its most modern jet between the cities.

Delta’s swanky A220 offers a comfortable ride (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Los Angeles (LAX) to Oakland (OAK) also starts on April 12, with thrice-daily service in each direction, operated by Delta Connection partner SkyWest Airlines on the 70-seat Embraer 175. Delta will go head-to-head with Southwest and Spirit in this short-haul market. 

More: Delta charges into leisure markets with latest route shakeup

Starting in April, Delta’s also adding another frequency between LAX and Orlando (MCO), bringing the average to four-daily flights in each direction. Other destinations getting a frequency boost include Nashville (BNA) and Tampa (TPA).

Delaying the return to RDU

Delta’s making another interesting adjustment to its Raleigh/Durham (RDU) flying. The carrier is postponing the restart of four routes from April to September, effectively throwing in the towel on the summer season for the markets listed below, and delaying its return to RDU as a focus city.

  • Raleigh/Durham (RDU) – Indianapolis (IND)
  • Raleigh/Durham (RDU) – Nashville (BNA)
  • Raleigh/Durham (RDU) – Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Raleigh/Durham (RDU) – Windsor Locks, Connecticut (BDL)

The latest route-map shakeup comes on the heels of Delta charging ahead into leisure markets from its New York City-area hubs. The carrier is adding a slew of flights to destinations including Hilton Head, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and more.

Airlines have repeatedly shown a willingness to try new routes and add service in the hope of generating revenues, particularly when they have hundreds of planes sitting idle.

Delta’s latest move does exactly that: rebalancing the route map to fly where people want to go.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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