Delta Launches Joshua Tree Express Between Atlanta and Ontario, CA

Oct 20, 2018

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Miley may prefer to drop into LAX, but veteran travelers know that the real party in the USA begins once you’re well outside of LA traffic. In what’ll no doubt be nicknamed The Joshua Tree Express (or Coachella Express during certain weeks of the year), Delta Air Lines is adding much needed transcontinental service to an LA-area airport that isn’t Los Angeles International (LAX).

Joshua tree
Landing at ONT should provide plenty of open road in Southern California (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Beginning April 22, 2019, Delta will fly between its home at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Ontario International Airport (ONT) in Southern California. It’ll start as a once-a-day route, increasing to twice daily beginning June 9, 2019. For weekend warriors looking to explore the wilds of SoCal’s desert region without having to spend hours commuting to and from LAX, this is a major boon. Before the announcement, Delta’s only scheduled flight into ONT originated at Salt Lake City (SLC) — a route that will continue alongside the Atlanta-Ontario service.

Delta will serve the LA Basin via Ontario starting in June 2019 (Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)
Delta will serve the LA Basin via Ontario starting in June 2019 (Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

The flights will operate on the following schedule and will go on sale Oct. 20, 2018 (*Begins June 2, 2019):

  • Ontario International Airport (ONT) 10:55am Departure ⇒ Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 6:25pm Arrival
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT) 10:45pm Departure ⇒ Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 6:05am (+1) Arrival*
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 8:30am Departure ⇒ Ontario International Airport (ONT) 9:57am Arrival
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) 7:30pm Departure ⇒ Ontario International Airport (ONT) 8:57pm Arrival*

The on board Delta experience will be on Boeing 737-900ER aircraft with 20 seats in first class, 21 in Delta Comfort+ and 139 in the main cabin. Every seat includes access to Wi-Fi, free personal inflight seatback entertainment screens, power ports as well as complimentary snacks and beverages.

Joshua tree
Gazing at stars within Joshua Tree National Park (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Alan D. Wapner, President of the Ontario International Airport Authority and Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Ontario, sounds understandably stoked: “We are thrilled to add Delta’s nonstop service to its Atlanta hub, a key development in Ontario’s evolution as a gateway airport. The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta offers Southern Californians a world of opportunities for air travel through Delta’s extensive global network. In just two years since the airport’s transition to local control, we’ve made tremendous strides in improving our facilities, services and amenities and, as a result, airlines and air travelers are bullish on Ontario.”

As construction slogs on at LAX, having another option into the LA Basin can only mean good things. Plus, this flight could be a best-kept secret for Medallion members hungry for an upgrade to the West Coast. It’s likely that ATL-ONT won’t be filled with as many top-tier Delta elites given that there aren’t Asia and South Pacific connections available once one lands, but that makes it easier for the rest of us to enjoy Delta’s complimentary upgrades on domestic flights.

This route may also offer lower SkyMiles award redemptions compared to LAX, where demand will no doubt be higher. Delta has been on a tear of late with domestic SkyMiles award ticket sales, and we could certainly see ONT fitting into one of those once the route goes live.

Joshua tree
Family road trips abound from ONT, including desert hiking in Southern California (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

If you’re planning to book a seat for next summer, make sure you use the right credit card. We’ve assembled a guide covering the best cards for Delta loyalists, and the Delta Reserve® for Business Credit Card from American Express, which includes gratis Delta Sky Club lounge access, is offering an elevated welcome bonus of 70,000 miles after you spend $5,000 within the first three months (offer expires Nov. 7, 2018).

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