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Turf war: Delta retaliates in Detroit with new transatlantic route

Dec. 02, 2022
4 min read
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Turf war: Delta retaliates in Detroit with new transatlantic route
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Delta Air Lines is no stranger to turf wars.

The Atlanta-based carrier has historically defended its leading positions in many of its hubs, and now the airline is about to do the same in Detroit.

Delta will add a new route from the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) to the Keflavik Airport (KEF) near Reykjavik, Iceland, beginning on May 15, 2023. The new flight will operate seasonally throughout the summer and will end on Oct. 27, 2023.

The airline plans to fly the route four times weekly, departing the U.S. as DL Flight 236 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The return Flight 237 will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.


Delta will deploy a Boeing 757-200 on the route, specifically the "75G" configuration, which features 193 seats: 20 first-class recliners, 41 extra-legroom Comfort+ seats and 132 standard economy seats.

The new flight will be available for purchase beginning this weekend, a carrier spokesperson confirmed to TPG. There's no telling what the fares (both in cash and in SkyMiles) will be until the route is loaded for sale.

When the new route launches, it'll mark the first time that Delta has connected Detroit with Iceland, since at least 2003, according to Cirium schedules.


As for why Delta is choosing 2023 as the year to launch the route, it's likely no coincidence that the Iceland flag carrier announced just a week ago that it was planning to add a route-map pin in Detroit next summer.

On Nov. 25, Icelandair unveiled plans to connect Detroit and Reykjavik with seasonal service beginning on May 18. Now, just one week later, Delta is announcing the exact same route, but the airline's service will launch three days earlier than Icelandair's.

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Icelandair is marketing its new flight as an affordable way for travelers based in Detroit to both visit Iceland and connect onwards to over 25 destinations in Europe.

Delta won't be able to sell connections beyond Reykjavik, but it can tap into its big network in Detroit to offer plenty of convenient domestic connections for travelers looking to visit Iceland. In fact, Delta plans a pretty extensive schedule next summer to Iceland. The Detroit service will operate in addition to flights from New York and Minneapolis-St. Paul to Iceland.

During the peak summer season, Delta will operate 36 weekly flights between the U.S. and Iceland, for a total of 6,248 seats in both directions per week.

As Delta goes up against Icelandair in Detroit, the real winners are travelers who can now enjoy expanded service on two carriers. It's likely that Delta will compete with Icelandair on fares as well, which could make visiting Iceland more affordable than ever for flyers based in the Motor City.


In recent years, Delta has vigorously defended its position in key hubs against new entrants and expanding incumbents. That's perhaps nowhere more apparent than in Seattle.

In the early 2010s, Delta had a strong relationship with Alaska Airlines, Seattle's hometown carrier. The tie-up included a robust codeshare and frequent flyer alliance. By the middle of the decade, however, the partnership frayed as Delta moved instead to build its own hub in Seattle, ultimately competing head-to-head with Alaska on many of its most lucrative routes.

The partnership ultimately ended in 2017 amid an escalating turf battle for Seattle. Since then, Delta has been in growth mode — boosting its Seattle hub with new routes, while also rethinking many elements of the travel experience, including a stylish new Sky Club.

While Delta may not be getting into a years-long spat with Icelandair, it certainly appears that the airline is ready to defend its Detroit hub from new competition.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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