Delta’s shortest-lived route ever?

On 17 February 2014 Delta announced service between Chicago and London in conjunction with their new joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic. Delta would operate the route in the winter months while Virgin would handle the summer. This would give the pair year-round service in the market. The new, winter operations were scheduled to commence at the end of October. This weekend, only 6 weeks later and still 6 months before service was slated to start the route was pulled. According to a story published at Business Traveller:

A Delta spokesperson said that “Having done further research on the route the decision has been made to evaluate the Delta – Virgin transatlantic offering as we build our partnership and optimise the transatlantic schedule. Virgin continues to service the route from Heathrow during the summer season.”


In this particular case Delta was up against stiff competition. The AA/BA joint venture operates a combined 1200ish seats daily over 5 flights in the winter season on the route. United has another 500+ seats on three daily flights. And then there was the Delta/Virgin Atlantic option of just under 200 seats flown once daily. Oh, and both United and the American/British Airways options offered first class seats; Delta tops out at business class. It was going to be very, very, very hard to break in on that route. It seems that Delta has chosen the easier target market of Seattle for international expansion instead.

I love the Delta Dart Board. We joke about it often on Dots, Lines & Destinations but I think it is incredibly entertaining that they remain creative in their route planning department, looking for ways to serve markets or handle traffic which would traditionally be less than ideal. The operations they ramped up in Africa from 2009-2011 were great to watch, with multiple destinations announced, a theoretical mini-hub and some interesting potential. Alas, most of those flights have now been scrapped (some never started), though a few remain.

The remnants of Delta’s foray into Africa service. Lots of routes tried and cut, including the mini-hub.

There have been other short-lived services, too. But I cannot think of any which actually went on sale and were terminated so quickly or so far in advance. At least the six month window gives customers time to rebook, though I’m guessing there aren’t all that many affected customers.

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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. Its great they are trying new routes, even if they don’t succeed. New routes, more competition and more seats on existing routes can only benefit us.

  2. The benefit will reach its apex when they stack you like cordwood into the cabin.

  3. Seth, please refresh my memory — what was the DL mini-hub you refer to vis a vis Africa service? What routes did it serve from this mini? How long did it last? Thanks!

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