A history of Delta in Seattle, Alaska Airlines’ hometown
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Delta Air Lines is firmly ensconced as the Seattle area’s second carrier, having built an Asia gateway and hub there during the past decade.
The SkyTeam Alliance carrier will offer up to 184 departures this summer, including service to seven cities in Asia and Europe, from Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA), according to Cirium schedule data. Hometown carrier Alaska Airlines will offer nearly 345 departures, all of which are to points in North America.
However, while Delta’s No. 2 position in Seattle is not in question, it now faces a new challenge from a rekindled partnership between Alaska and American airlines. As part of the tie-up, American will launch new daily flights from Seattle to Bangalore (BLR) — its only service to India — in October, and London Heathrow (LHR) in March 2021.
The new partnership will strengthen Alaska’s value proposition to travelers in Seattle, ratcheting up pressure on Delta in one of its key West Coast markets.
Hub of necessity
Delta’s Seattle hub was a product of necessity. Once a bit player in the Seattle market — it only served the city from Atlanta (ATL), Cincinnati (CVG), New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) and Salt Lake City (SLC) in 2008 —it more than doubled in size there through its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2009.
The Northwest combo also expanded Delta’s Pacific route map, including Northwest’s hub at Tokyo Narita (NRT). The Minneapolis-based carrier’s network included nonstops between Seattle and both Beijing Capital (PEK), Osaka Kansai (KIX) and Narita, according to Cirium.
Delta added flights to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and Tokyo Haneda (HND) from Seattle in 2013, Cirium shows. These routes, plus the others it already flew, were primarily supported by connections with then-codeshare partner Alaska.
However, as Delta added long-haul routes from Seattle it realized that it could fill more seats — and generate more revenue — by providing its own domestic connections rather than flights operated by a partner.
“We are making Seattle our West Coast hub to serve the Pacific,” Mike Medeiros, Delta’s then-vice president for Seattle, told FlightGlobal in April 2014. “We are looking at the top business markets with a focus on Asia.”
Delta had added 18 new routes from Seattle, including flights to Hong Kong (HKG) and Seoul Incheon (ICN), in 2014 — the year it officially declared the city a hub.
Today, Alaska still dominates Seattle carrying nearly 49% of the 48.7 million travelers that passed through the airport during the year ending in July 2019, the latest U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium shows. Delta carried just 24% of airport traffic.
American, for comparison, was the fifth-largest airline in Seattle — behind Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — with just over a 5% share of passengers during the period.
For its part, American’s long-haul flights from Seattle will not be the first time the city has had two U.S. carriers competing for international passengers. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Northwest and United Airlines competed for Asia-bound travelers from the Puget Sound region with dueling flights to Tokyo and elsewhere.
Featured image by Alberto Riva/TPG.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.