Delta’s Growth challenges JetBlue to a Battle for the TransAtlantic Customer

The transatlantic Delta versus JetBlue war is shaping up. Delta reshaped its network earlier this summer. When Delta upgraded Boston (BOS) to a hub they also prepared for a battle towards containment of JetBlue’s transatlantic traffic plans. Currently, Delta is smaller than JetBlue in the domestic flight market.

Delta Crowning Boston a Hub Changes Everything for Corporate Customers

Delta having complete access to Logan’s Terminal A after subleasing 9 out of 21 gates during their bankruptcy means more aircraft and more destinations and higher access to corporate customers.

Boston destinations

Delta does not fly from Boston to Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Baltimore, or Denver.

Denver is a “focus city” for Southwest and a hub for United. Charlotte and Dallas-Ft. Worth are both American hubs.

A “focus city” is a city where an airline has a more regional operational interest, as opposed to a “hub”, which serves as a central point for an airline’s connecting flights.

Joe Esposito, Delta’s Senior Vice President – Network Planning said,

“If our corporate customers want to go there {to Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Baltimore, and Denver}, we will do it. Meaning, the corporate customer is in the driver seat.”

The Race towards 200 Daily Flights

Flights from the West Coast

Seattle was built “out of necessity” as the West Coast hub for trans-Pacific flights. However, I believe the same can be done from Salt Lake City International Airport.

Seattle Tacoma (SeaTac) was also built for trans-Pacific traffic. Although 51% of the domestic traffic there belongs to Alaska Airlines, the road to get to that status wasn’t friendly from a standpoint of competition. Alaska Airlines, with 300 daily Seattle-departures, is the largest of the airline in terms of departures. Alaska folded Delta’s use of its moniker “Seattle’s largest global airline.”

Airline traffic shares at Boston Airport, piechart
Airline shares at Boston Logan Airport. Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 22-Jul-2019).

Delta’s SeaTac traffic is at 23%, according to last quarter’s filings with the government. Delta currently has 174 peak departures at SeaTac (many of which are international), up from 35 in late 2013. If Delta used Salt Lake City International, the domestic logistics would be there already.

Flights from the East Coast

On the Eastern Coast, Boston is a fragmented market with JetBlue, American, Cape Air, United, and Southwest, among others.

With JetBlue’s investment, they take the lead with 175 daily departures within the United States. Delta is closing the gap with 140 departures, which include 18 international destinations by Delta’s partners around Europe, and Asia.

Boston: Preparing for the transatlantic Delta versus JetBlue Battle

Boston could be a different story. JetBlue has decided on a different tactic than Alaska Airlines with its decision to fly trans-Atlantic routes. While the difference in price will be noticeable, (and both will fight for the corporate customer), Jetblue will likely throw the gantlet on every possible feature. Regarding price, my colleague Captain Jetson has already given out his take.

Closing the Gap: Make or Break

Here is where things get interesting in Boston, in terms of connecting traffic.

Delta’s Boston strategy

  • The airline can turn the connecting traffic network on a dime, with its subsidiary Endeavor Air, and Republic and SkyWest as contractors. 
  • Delta is currently shrinking the Delta Connection brand contracts from five to three.
  • Delta is reducing the footprint of contractors under the Delta Connection and using more mainland carriers like the Airbus A220-300.

JetBlue has a hard time serving small to medium markets, and it doesn’t have a regional brand carrier, which for some corporate customers is a non-starter, to begin with.

JetBlue could win the War for Boston

There are rumblings to the successor to the Boeing 757 and 767 called “the 797-project.” The project consists of a New Midsize Airplane narrow body (one aisle) or a wide body (two aisles) between 200 and 290 seats. However, because of the problems with the Boeing 737 Max the development of the 797 has been delayed until the end of the year.

If Boeing were to go ahead with this new plane and Delta buys this new plane, its use of using Boston as a Hub would become a point moot. This new plane would have the capability to fly to Detroit non-stop from a flight like France, Amsterdam, or even London.

There you have it, the battle plans are drawn, and now it is a matter of which company can batter down the hatches and hold the siege of the Battle of Boston.

Who do you think will come out the winner of the transatlantic battle between Delta and JetBlue? You can contact me here.

Featured Image: Unsplash (Delta) & JetBlue (JetBlue)

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