Delta charges into leisure markets with latest route shakeup

Jan 27, 2021

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Most major airlines have adjusted to the reality of the pandemic by pivoting to flying where people are actually going.

That means fewer flights on key business routes, like New York to Chicago, in favor of more leisure-oriented service to outdoor destinations.

In its latest route network adjustment, Delta’s done exactly that. The Atlanta-based carrier is boosting its presence in warm-weather destinations, likely hoping to capture some of the leisure demand that’s still flying during the pandemic.

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Delta is adding a slew of flights from its New York City-area hubs, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by the airline, on the following routes:

  • New York LaGuardia (LGA) – Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH)
  • New York LaGuardia (LGA) – Key West, Florida (EYW)
  • New York LaGuardia (LGA) – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (MYR)
  • New York-JFK – Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (MVY)
  • New York-JFK – Nantucket, Massachusetts (ACK)

Though none of these are new Delta routes, each is getting a big boost compared to historical schedules.

From March through the summer, Delta is now scheduled to operate 790 total flights on the three aforementioned LaGuardia routes, a whopping 530% increase compared to the same time period in 2019, when it flew just 125 flights on the routes, according to Cirium timetables.

The JFK flights are even more interesting. Cirium schedules show that Delta hasn’t flown to either Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket since September 2017. Both services are now slated to resume in May 2021, with 14 more flights for the 2021 season, a roughly 10% bump compared to the 2017 timetable.

Beyond the above routes, Delta also will up its frequencies to Miami (MIA) from both LaGuardia and JFK by increasing to four daily round-trip flights by March — up from three currently.

Additionally, two more LaGuardia flights are being added to Delta’s schedules on March 2. Twice-daily service to Fort Myers (RSW) will return after operating during the winter holidays. And nonstops to New Orleans (MSY) will join return, restoring a route Delta last flew in April 2020.

It seems clear that Delta’s motive here is to take New Yorkers to destinations with built-in social distancing, often referred to as “sun-and-fun” cities, as a safer alternative to places focused on indoor gatherings.

Delta jets lined up in the carrier’s Salt Lake City hub (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This isn’t the first time that Delta has added service to outdoor-focused destinations during the pandemic. In September, the carrier added five new routes from Atlanta and Los Angeles to destinations in the West such as Reno and Palm Springs, which are popular for their mountains and nearby national parks.

Despite Delta’s latest route adjustments, the carrier hasn’t been nearly as aggressive as its top competitors.

American Airlines recently announced service between Philadelphia and Panama City and Destin-Fort Walton Beach in Florida, as well as Boston to Hilton Head. It also added flights on the  presumably overperforming Dallas/Fort Worth to Daytona Beach route.

More: How airline route maps may continue to change in 2021 and beyond

United has also been playing offense.

The Chicago-based airline unveiled a route-map shakeup in August that saw the carrier add 17 new routes, all to various Florida destinations from non-hub airports, like Boston and Cleveland.

Additionally, United is boosting Florida flights from its Denver hub and adding two new routes from Washington/Dulles to Panama City and from Houston to Sarasota/Bradenton over the next few months.

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.

For Delta, that means adding service on existing leisure-focused routes, even if it means playing “catch up” with some of its competitors.

Featured photo by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock




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