Salt Lake City’s next international nonstop could be to Asia

Oct 2, 2019

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Delta Air Lines is considering adding flights between its Salt Lake City hub and Seoul as it focuses on beefing up connections with partner Korean Air.

“Salt Lake City would be a fantastic hub to Asia,” Delta’s international network head Joe Esposito told TPG on Monday. Salt Lake City (SLC) is well situated to connect traffic from cities in the Midwest and Southwest to Asia, he added.

Any flight between Salt Lake City and Asia would be to Seoul Incheon (ICN), the main hub of Delta’s joint-venture partner Korean Air. Under their partnership, the carriers are able to coordinate schedules, fares and other commercial activities between the U.S. and South Korea to create a smooth travel experience for passengers.

Related: Delta eyes mid-2020 move to Beijing’s new airport, expansion in Seoul

From Seoul, Delta passengers can connect to more than 80 destinations in Asia via Korean Air. The U.S. carrier will also serve Manila (MNL) from Incheon with its own flights beginning in March.

Salt Lake City is not an obvious international gateway. The airport has been a hub for connecting domestic passengers into the West since the early 1980s, but the airport only gained its first long-haul international route to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on Delta in 2008, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

Delta operated flights between Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Salt Lake City from 2009 to 2011, Diio shows. The route was among one of Delta’s early cuts to its Narita hub, which the airline will now close next March.

One issue Salt Lake City faces in landing long-haul flights is its elevation. Since it’s located at 4,226 feet above sea level, aircraft require longer runways to takeoff because the air is less dense. The impact of elevation becomes more pronounced the bigger and heavier an aircraft is.

Related: Why flying out of hot, high airports is tough

In addition, the airport’s international arrivals facility has limited capacity.

But Salt Lake City’s international prospects are getting brighter. London Heathrow (LHR) will join the ranks of Amsterdam (AMS) and Paris with year-round service from the airport in December.

And a new terminal at the airport, one with an expanded international arrivals facility, will begin opening in phases starting late next year.

Delta plans to grow international capacity by roughly 4% year-over-year in 2020, Esposito said. Much of that growth, as in the past, will be connecting its network with those of its international partners, including Air France, Korean Air and Virgin Atlantic.

Featured image by Darren Murph / The Points Guy.

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