Delta goes all-in on Panama with 3 new international routes

Oct 15, 2021

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Delta Air Lines is giving Central America some love, with three new routes to Panama City, Panama, taking off just in time for the peak winter holiday season.

The Atlanta-based carrier will add new year-round service to the country from its hubs in Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK, as well as from Orlando (MCO). (Note that service from JFK is technically a resumption; Delta exited the market in 2008, according to Cirium schedules.)

Flights from Los Angeles and Orlando will operate once weekly on Saturdays beginning on Dec. 18, while JFK service will follow shortly thereafter on Dec. 20 with three weekly flights, jumping to four come March 2022.

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In addition to the new routes, Delta will also add a second Saturday-only flight from its Atlanta (ATL) mega-hub on Dec. 18. The carrier currently has one daily flight scheduled on this route.

Altogether, the airline will offer 13 weekly flights between four U.S. cities and Panama this winter, the most it’s operated to the country since launching flights there in 1998.

Delta will deploy a 199-seat Boeing 757 aircraft on the LAX route, a 180-seat Boeing 737-900 on the Orlando route and a 160-seat Boeing 737-800 on the JFK route.

Adding new flights to Panama comes as Delta seemingly believes that there’s ample business and leisure demand to support the new service. As Luciano Macagno, Delta’s managing director for Latin America, Caribbean and South Florida said in a statement, “.. from its breathtaking beaches and vibrant culture to its competitive economy in Latin America, Panama is a highly sought destination for business and leisure travelers alike.”

It’ll be interesting to follow how Delta’s new service performs, though the airline is likely on to something. While the pandemic continues to reduce demand for international travel, flights to Panama have largely recovered to 2019 levels.

Related: Panama reopens for US travelers — here’s what you need to know

In fact, Cirium schedules show that airlines are slated to operate just 17% fewer flights there this month, compared to the same month in 2019. That number jumps to a whopping 40% fewer flights when looking at all international departures from the U.S. this month, relative to October 2019.

It’s not just Delta seeing increased demand to Panama City. Rival American Airlines has too, as it upgauged many of its Miami to PTY frequencies to a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Delta will face just a single competitor on all three of its new Panama City routes: the country’s flag carrier Copa Airlines. As a member of the Star Alliance, Copa partners with United Airlines in the U.S., and offers plenty of one-stop connecting itineraries onwards from its Panama City hub.

In fact, Copa just recently announced a new Atlanta route beginning in December, so Delta’s move could be seen by some as defending its home turf.

Perhaps most surprising is that Friday’s announcement will mark Delta’s only international route from Orlando (MCO). The airport isn’t a Delta hub, though it is a focus city for multiple low-cost carriers, including Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and Sun Country. It’s likely that Delta’s trying to tap into the local demand before these competitors possibly enter the market.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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