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.
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.
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.
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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