Delta Air Lines Sticks With Sydney

For any international airline, flying into Australia these days is a tough business. While some airlines have cut their losses, suspending or axing flights to Australia, others have kept flying. Delta Air Lines is one of the stayers. Nearly a year and a half into the travel downturn, Delta continues to fly to Australia every day.

Despite the challenges, Delta Air Lines continues to stick with Sydney. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta resumed daily flights to Sydney in March

Delta sends DL41 down to Sydney every day. DL41 pushes back from Los Angeles (LAX) at 22:45 local time and lands in Sydney (SYD) at 06:45 two days later. The return flight, DL40, departs Sydney daily at 11:35 and arrives back at LAX at 08:10 on the same day.

While the flights are running, the odds are there are no seats available for some time. Australia has further reduced the number of passengers who can land in the country each week. International airlines like Delta who fly into Sydney are down to flying in a handful of passengers on each flight. Snagging a ticket on Delta, or any airline, flying into Sydney is a tough business.

“At Delta, we returned back to our daily Sydney – Los Angeles schedule in March this year,” said Delta’s General Manager (Australia) Clare Black at an Australian Tourism Exchange event covered on CAPA Live last week.

Delta flies a daily Airbus a350-900 into Sydney. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Sydney sees a Delta A350-900 after Boeing 777s are retired

“It’s exciting for us to be able to continue to support the Australian market,” Ms Black said. Possibly that excitement has waned recently, but Delta and the other United States-based carriers still flying to Sydney deserve some kudos for sticking with Australia when it would have been easier to cut and run.

“We’ve gone our flagship aircraft flying Sydney – Los Angeles now, which is the A350-900.” Formerly Delta operated Boeing 777s down to Sydney, but that aircraft is now retired. As a result, Sydney gets a slicker plane from Delta, containing their best and most up-to-date cabin product, including Delta One Suites. That’s important when the westbound flight can take 15 hours.

“In terms of supporting this market, I think that’s been great news for Delta that we’ve got that new aircraft flying between Sydney and LA,” Delta’s Australian boss said.

Cargo is helping underwrite Delta’s daily Sydney flights. Photo: Delta Air Lines

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Cargo helps Delta Air Lines in Sydney

Until the travel downturn, five airlines competed on the Sydney – Los Angeles route. One of those airlines, Virgin Australia, is permanently off the route, having axed its international flights and sold off the planes it used on the sector. The second airline, Qantas, has suspended its international services to North America and elsewhere. Today, American Airlines said it was temporarily ending its Sydney flights on August 31. That will leave two airlines still competing – Delta and United.

Given airlines are restricted to flying so few passengers in Australia, why would they persist with this route? Partly, it is about maintaining connectivity and a strategic presence. Mostly it is about bumper freight loads between Australia and North America.

Cargo demand is strong, but capacity on this route (and many other routes worldwide) is down on pre-downturn levels. That’s significantly boosting cargo shipping costs, substantially helping to underwrite flights like Delta’s flight down to Sydney.

Local scuttlebutt suggests some international airlines may trim their schedules to Australia following the recent reduction in allowable inbound passenger numbers. However, Delta Air Lines has not been on the list of airline names getting bandied around. The situation is fairly dynamic, and Delta could change course next week. But for the time being, at least, it looks like Delta Air Lines is sticking with Sydney.