Delta continues to trim hubs; Memphis on the chopping block this summer

Looking to connect via Delta‘s hub in Memphis later this summer? That is going to be harder as the carrier is cutting 25 more flights from the daily schedule at the airport, dropping the total number of daily operations to about 125. The new service levels will be roughly half of what the combined Delta/Northwest numbers were immediately prior to the two carriers’ merger nearly four years ago.

The cuts aren’t much of a surprise as they are nearly all 50-seat regional jet, aircraft that Delta has been quite clear in the past few months that they are keen to retire from the fleet. And with Atlanta nearby the hub in Memphis was always a bit of a marginal operation in the merged carrier. Also not surprising is that the airport authority is now examining its budget to see what cuts they’ll have to make given lower income in the form of landing fees.

The fate of the Memphis hub seems to be running in parallel with that of the CVG hub, another operation which has seen significant cuts due in large part to another hub operation nearby which is a stronger option for the company (DTW in that case). Cuts at CVG in the past few years haven’t been quite as severe as at MEM, but they are still rather notable.

Good luck to the Delta passengers out there and to the folks in Memphis. Cuts like this generally mean higher fares and less convenient options. Unless some other airline takes advantage of the $1mm bounty the airport authority has out there for new service it seems like things are going to be rather dire for a while.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Actually, I’d hope that the demise of the MEM Hub for DL would also mean the end of DL’s MEM fortress hub pricing.

    A few years ago, it was common to see many Shelby County TN license plates in the parking lots at LIT and BNA because the difference in fares made up for the cost of the drive.

  2. CLE and DTW are both on the list. CO doesn’t need CLE, nor does DL need MSP/DTW. CVG was de-hubbed long before NW was on the scene…

  3. Ryan – CLE may be relatively close to ORD, but I wouldn’t say it’s close to EWR.

  4. @NYBanker, interesting comment about DL not needing DTW/MSP and your prediction that DTW is next on the chopping block. DL seems more committed to DTW than MSP and I view MSP as DL’s version of UA’s DEN. MSP will not have a whole lot of international flights, but facilitates as key hub for connections from coast to coast.

    IMO, if DL is going to dehub MSP or DTW, I think MSP will be the one to go if SLC can handle a huge expansion to provide the necessary connections from coast to coast. Bottom line, I don’t think that will happen in this decade or maybe the next.

    I am curious what makes you think DTW will be dehubbed?

  5. @gb: No carrier needs two hubs in northern, snowy cities where o+d traffic isn’t alone enough to support the routes….that’s what makes me confident that one will go the way of CVG. As to between the two, if you had to pick a local economy to more closely tie yourself to, I’d certainly pick msp over dtw. Detroit has had negative cumulative population growth over the last 100 years….the only top-50 city in the US to be in such a club. I can picture that über-long terminal in dtw sitting largely unused….within ten years.

    Is there some aspect of dtw that you think makes it more compelling that msp economically for a carrier?

    @ryan: the difference between ORD-cle and cle-ewr is 80 miles. This is a trivial difference in terms of air travel.

  6. This does not make me sad. The Memphis airport is terrible. It feels cramped and dank.

  7. Delta will not dehub DTW as they are only second behind ATL in enplanements/deplanements for DL…

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