What Is Delta Air Lines’ Strategy In Portland?

Delta Air Lines announced a new flight from Portland International Airport (PDX) to Seoul-Incheon International Airport (ICN). Running three times a week starting in September, the route will be Delta’s second nonstop route to Asia from Portland. Delta does not categorize Portland as a focus city, nor is the airline planning to create a hub there, which begs the question: what is the strategy in Portland? Here is a look at the airline’s Portland portfolio.

Delta Airbus A330-200
Delta Air Lines has announced a new long-haul route from Portland to South Korea. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta’s new Portland to Seoul route

Delta will start flying from PDX to ICN with a 234-seat Airbus A330-200. Outbound flights to Seoul will run on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Return services will run on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays.

Flights will depart PDX at 12:35 and arrive the next day at 17:05 in Seoul. The return flight will depart Seoul at 19:30 and arrive in PDX the same day at 14:25. All times are local.

Delta Airbus A330-200
Delta will fly an Airbus A330-200 between the two cities. Photo: Getty Images

The Airbus A330-200s feature three experiences onboard. This includes 34 seats in Delta One business class, which is a reverse herringbone lie-flat product in a 1-2-1 configuration. This product is not a swanky new Delta One seat or Delta One suite.

Following this are 32 seats in extra-legroom economy in a 2-4-2 configuration. Rounding out the passenger cabin are 168 standard economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. All seats feature access to power and on-demand entertainment via seatback screens. In addition, Delta offers WiFi onboard the jets.

Delta A330 business class
Delta One on the Airbus A330. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

Delta has stated that this service will upgrade to offer four product experiences. Delta will add its Premium Select on the route by summer 2022. It is unclear if this means the airline will be retrofitting the Airbus A330-200 or if a Boeing 767-400ER or Airbus A330neo will operate the route next year.

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Delta’s routes out of Portland

Portland, Oregon, is not a hub for Delta, but the airline provides extensive services from the city. On the domestic front, Delta flies to Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Salt Lake City, and Seattle from Portland.

Delta domestic
Delta’s domestic services out of Portland. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

On the international long-haul front, Delta also flies to Tokyo and Amsterdam from Portland. While not all of these routes are currently running, they are planned to resume at some point this year, though some resumptions may be delayed depending on the overall travel demand environment. Delta has previously flown nonstop between Portland and London, though that route appears canceled for quite some time, if not permanently.

The new route to Seoul fits into Delta’s route profile from Portland. Seoul is a partner hub for Korean Air, with whom Delta has a joint venture agreement, and Delta sells connections throughout Asia. Delta touts that passengers can connect to over 80 destinations throughout Asia from Seoul.

Delta long-haul
Delta’s full long-haul operations out of Portland, assuming all that scheduled to resume in 2021 do operate. Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

In 2020, Delta had a 12% market share in Portland, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The top carrier was Alaska with 22.13% (37.28% when combined with Horizon Air, its regional subsidiary), followed by Southwest with a 17.55% market share.

Where does Portland fit in strategy?

Delta took over the Portland operation after its merger with Northwest Airlines, from which it inherited the long-haul routes it currently flies to Tokyo and Amsterdam. Nevertheless, Portland never became a major hub for Delta.

Just a short hop north is Seattle, which is a newer Delta hub and a transpacific hub. This does not appear to be the start of Delta trying to build up another hub, but rather one of Portland serving as a focus city, though it does not officially have that moniker.

Delta Getty
Delta has focused its transpacific operations out of Seattle, so Portland is not looking like the start of a new hub for Delta. Photo: Getty Images

Delta has targeted routes from major US cities to its partner hubs abroad. It has previously flown from Tampa to Amsterdam, Indianapolis to Paris, and from focus city Raleigh to Paris.

This does raise some questions for Delta’s Portland to Tokyo route. While it is still on the schedule for later this year, that does not mean it will be flying it. Delta likely would not want to give up its Tokyo slot, but it could seek to transfer that flight.

Delta’s Salt Lake City hub currently has no nonstop service to Asia either on Delta or on a partner airline. Even if it is only five times a week, a flight to Tokyo would fit into the airline’s growth strategy in Salt Lake City and fill in a gap from the hub.

Ultimately, Delta is adding a flight from one of its major cities to a partner hub. This is not new in Delta’s strategy but represents an extension of the strategy into the transpacific market, which could be a boon for Delta, assuming market conditions make the flight successful.

Are you going to fly Delta from Portland to Seoul? Let us know in the comments!

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