Delta continues their growth in Seattle, attack on Alaska Airlines

More growth was announced for Delta out of Seattle, with the carrier continuing its attack on the major markets where partner Alaska Airlines has typically been the dominant airline. Today’s announcement includes service to Portland and San Diego, starting in September 2014 and June 2014, respectively. Delta is also increasing its seasonal service between Seattle and Anchorage with a second flight for much of the summer. These new routes are in addition to service announced to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, all of which will also start in 2014. Also, these new routes have been added in to the double miles promo Delta is running for their new Seattle routes next year.

Delta’s domestic routes ex-SEA by mid-2014; map courtesy of

To be fair, the frequencies Delta is putting in to these markets are generally much smaller than what Alaska Airlines offers in the markets. Delta’s four each daily to San Diego or Portland pale in comparison to Alaska’s eight to San Diego and twenty-four(!!) to Portland.

Alaska Airlines’ schedule from SEA-SAN
Alaska Airlines’ schedule for SEA-PDX

This would suggest that Delta mostly wants to use these flights to feed their new trans-Pacific gateway rather than trying to really go after Alaska Airlines.

Delta’s international routes ex-SEA by mid-2014; map courtesy of

But I’m not entirely convinced that’s true. Yes, the flights are going to feed in to the international flight banks, but there is a lot more capacity there than those feeders need. Not in all the markets, certainly, but when you start getting up in the 4-7 daily flights in larger markets it is hard to see those moves as anything less than aggressive. To say that they are attacking at Alaska’s hub might be a bit of an understatement.

I almost feel badly for Alaska Airlines in this case. They have been nothing but a supportive partner to Delta on the west coast, helping to feed the long-haul flights. They are a great airline operationally and they have been financially sound throughout much of the tumult in the industry. They’ve built up a strong customer base in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska but their market power is limited by the fact that they are a smaller player. Delta showing up like this almost seems unfair, especially after Delta has relied on their smaller partner to help build up feeder traffic for those TPAC flights that Delta is supporting with this service. Then again, Alaska Airlines is a pretty big airline with nearly 100 cities served. Surely one competitor trying to poach on six of those won’t be their ruin. Right??

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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. Alaska has a very loyal customer base in Seattle. Their Elite program is good and cancel policies are progressive. They consider themselves a discount airline. I think Delta will have their hands full trying to purge Business travelers.

    1. Pretty sure you mean poach, not purge, there. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Delta comes in to the market with the ability to offer a broader global reach and more options in many areas. That’s going to help them win corporate contracts. They’ve already done similar in NYC following their trade with US Airways for slots at DCA/LGA. And it has worked pretty darn well for Delta. I don’t see that Seattle is going to be too much different in that regard.

      Yes, MileagePlan is a nice program and customers can be loyal. But when push comes to shove and it comes down to numbers that gets a lot harder.

  2. Whatever happened to the rumor that Delta was trying to buy Alaska? Maybe this is all part of a plan hatched long ago in some ATL boardroom….

    1. Alaska sits at a pretty high valuation as far as airlines go and has for a long, long time. There’s not much reason for them to want to sell. You’re not the first to suggest that this is a ploy to weaken AS or to get them into a position where a merger would be easier but I’m not buying it. At least not yet. And that’s before we even consider the chances of the DoJ approving such a deal.

      This is going to take a while to play out. Still a lot of moving parts at play, all of which will need to line up before anything major changes. But the pieces are definitely moving.

  3. If I lived in the Pac NW as an AS Elite, I would not be tempted by the DL flights. AS would already fly domestically to almost any major domestic/Canadian market from SEA, and would treat me better on their own metal. I could put up with an exit row on DL or MCE on AA for the domestic destinations AS doesn’t reach from there. I would also prefer the superior AS mileage currency over SkyPesos, which now allows a lot of flexibility (online searching of one-way or mixed-carrier awards for nearly all major partners, and allows for international F redemptions). Also, if I needed to fly TPAC/TATL from seattle, whether in business or coach, I could just fly DL and credit the miles to AS. Those DL longhauls do not directly compete with anything flown by AS, and are a benefit to the AS flyer. It’s not like DL makes upgrading on its flights easy for its own elites, as the SWUs are nearly worthless, and AS flyers have most of the same redemption options as DL flyers.

  4. Doesn’t look like all is perfect in the Delta/Alaska relationship. Perhaps Alaska is a little to blame as well. I think they added flights to Delta’s hubs in the last year and they tend to partner with just about any airline that comes along. I think Delta has big plans for international service out of Seattle…the question will be whether it is done in partnership with Alaska or in spite of Alaska. This could get really interesting before it is done.

  5. DL upped the offer to include double DMQM’s as well on their new SEA routes (SFO, SAN, LAS, LAX, etc.)

  6. . I feel that with the international expansion, they could really pull a whole different market into the mix if they shuttled passengers down from Vancouver where airfare is generally higher. Tag on the connection as revenue neutral and feed everyone through the SEA hub.

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