Delta makes big play for Alaska, adds several new routes amid pandemic pivot

Mar 12, 2021

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Delta is gearing up to fly pandemic-weary travelers to an outdoor adventure of a lifetime.

The Atlanta-based carrier is out with a slew of new and expanded routes to Alaska, perfectly timed for those planning a domestic summer vacation.

Delta is boosting flights to Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI), Juneau (JNU), Ketchikan (KTN) and Sitka (SIT) from a variety of hubs across the lower 48.

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The carrier will serve ANC from seven points in the mainland, including the airport’s longest regularly scheduled nonstop route, to Atlanta (ATL), beginning with daily service on May 5 and continuing into the fall with three-times-weekly flights. Clocking in at 3,416 miles and over seven hours, Delta will fly the route with a Boeing 767-300, equipped with lie-flat business-class pods.

Delta will also add or boost flights to Anchorage (ANC) from its other hubs, as follows:

  • Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) — new weekend service launching on May 28
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) — Third daily flight for the summer, beginning on May 5
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) — One year-round nonstop; second summer seasonal route beginning June 19
  • Seattle (SEA) — Up to seven daily flights starting June 19

Fairbanks (FAI) will also see a significant service boost, jumping to six nonstop flights from across the Delta network, as follows:

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) — Going double-daily with a second flight beginning June 19
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) — New daily nonstop flight launching May 5
  • Seattle (SEA) — Adding a third frequency beginning June 19

Finally, Delta will fly daily seasonal flights from Seattle (SEA) to Juneau (JNU), Ketchikan (KTN) and Sitka (SIT) beginning on Memorial Day weekend through the end of September.

For Delta, it’s not just about the new routes. The carrier is also upgauging equipment as part of its Alaska expansion.

In addition to wide-body Boeing 767 service from Atlanta, all flights will be flown by either a Boeing 737-800, -900 or 757-200. The only exceptions are the two routes to KTN and SIT, which will be flown by Delta Connection partner SkyWest Airlines on an Embraer 175.

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

Friday’s announcement marks one of Delta’s first major pandemic-era network expansions. All U.S. carriers have been shifting focus from business- to leisure-oriented routes, including multiple new point-to-point flights that bypass hubs.

This strategy shift has largely focused on points in Florida, South Carolina, Texas and other states that offer a host of outdoor activities with relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. Delta charged into such leisure markets with a sweeping schedule update back in late January.

But Friday’s Alaska expansion is seemingly far more comprehensive — and opportunistic.

Delta and Alaska Airlines are fighting for ground in Seattle (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For one, with Canada banning cruise ships through the end of the year, the Alaska cruise season is effectively over before it even began. With cruising out of the cards, travelers looking for an outdoor-friendly vacation might instead fly to the Last Frontier.

Plus, with President Biden promising access to a vaccine by the end of May, domestic travel is poised to have a meaningful rebound this summer. And Alaska definitely fits the bill for a far-flung domestic escape.

Related: A history of Delta in Seattle

Delta’s latest expansion also reenergizes some of the competition with its partner-turned-enemy Alaska Airlines. Pre-pandemic, Delta was growing aggressively in Seattle, and the new Alaska routes pit Delta squarely against Alaska Airlines, which has historically offered a robust route network from Seattle to Alaska.

Since breaking up with Delta, Alaska Airlines has turned to American Airlines to fuel its growth ambitions. The two new partners launched a new partnership, and Alaska is on the cusp of joining the Oneworld alliance later this month.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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