Delta focusing on ‘natural’ flow markets over Seattle

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Delta Air Lines’ domestic expansion from Seattle/Tacoma International airport continues to focus on markets that create a natural flow over the airport, says the airline's team leader of network planning Stephen Hedden.

This flow exists for passengers travelling from cities like Las Vegas or Los Angeles to ones like Fairbanks, Juneau and Vancouver – all destinations the Atlanta-based SkyTeam Alliance carrier has added or plans to add from Seattle – he says on the sidelines of the Airports Council International North America (ACI-NA) Jumpstart conference in Edmonton today.

“[We] pick big markets that naturally flow with each other,” says Hedden, who focuses on the Pacific Northwest for Delta and calls the new Seattle hub his “baby”.

Delta recently announced plans to add new service from Seattle to both Calgary and Spokane from 3 November, and to Bozeman, Kahului (Maui), Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos from 20 December.

Asked whether the carrier will continue expanding to additional flow markets, Hedden says that Delta will continue to focus on intra-west flying without giving specifics. There is relatively stable year-round demand for intra-west flying from Seattle compared to more seasonal demand for routes to the east coast, he adds.

Delta could add smaller Pacific Northwest cities, such as Eugene or Pasco, “down the line”, he says.

International routes form the basis of Delta’s expansion in Seattle. The airline launched service to Hong Kong and Seoul Incheon earlier in June, complementing its existing service to Amsterdam, Beijing, London Heathrow, Shanghai Pudong, Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita.

Taipei is the only city in the top five in terms of passenger numbers that Delta does not serve nonstop from Seattle, says Hedden. Any potential nonstop depends on demand, he adds.

Taiwan joined the US visa waiver programme, which makes it easier for Taiwanese nationals to travel to the USA, in November 2012. The move was a factor in Hawaiian Airlines' and United Airlines' respective decisions to launch nonstop service to Taipei, however the former dropped their flight due to weak demand after less than nine months in the market.