Delta Dissected: What Are The Carrier’s Top Airports?

Everyone knows that Atlanta is very much Delta’s top airport. But what is less known is what other airports fall in the top-10 – especially outside of its main hubs – together with how they rank and how they have developed. Two airports have grown since coronavirus started, with one a standout performer.

New York JFK, where this photo of an A330-200 was taken, is Delta’s fifth-largest airport this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

This summer, Delta’s top-10 airports have just over 984,000 flights scheduled, as follows, with Atlanta having more than twice as many as Detroit.

  1. Atlanta: 365,956 total flights this summer
  2. Detroit: 147,120
  3. Minneapolis: 141,988
  4. Salt Lake City: 118,810
  5. New York JFK: 76,286
  6. New York La Guardia: 70,476
  7. Seattle: 65,596
  8. Los Angeles: 63,574
  9. Boston: 41,692
  10. Raleigh Durham: 23,538

Naturally, looking at seats instead would result in a different picture. Among other changes, Minneapolis would be second – it has fewer Delta flights by regional jets – while Orlando would replace Raleigh Durham in 10th. Simple Flying recently identified that, for all airlines, Orlando has entered the US’ top-10 airport list this summer, displacing San Francisco.

Los Angeles is one of only two of Delta’s top-10 airports to have grown since coronavirus began. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Delta’s top-10 airports

It seemed a long time ago, but in summer 2011 (S11) Memphis was Delta’s fifth-largest airport. This once-hub had over 79,000 Delta flights that summer with 88 routes. This included Amsterdam, its sole long-haul destination that year, and other international routes, including Cancun, Montego Bay, Mexico City, and Cozumel.

Cincinnati has played an important role in Delta’s network even after it was de-hubbed. It was in the top-10 until S18, although it had regularly fallen down the ranks. Raleigh Durham replaced it in S19, although it too fell out of the top-10 because of coronavirus, temporarily replaced by Las Vegas. Raleigh Durham is back for S21.

How things change! Notice that total flights barely changed between summer 2011 and 2019. This largely reflects a declining use of regional jets and a growth in seats per flight. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Salt Lake City and Los Angeles are up

Two of Delta’s core airports have increased by the number of flights since coronavirus started: Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Seattle, meanwhile, has done very well under the circumstances, with flights down only marginally. The Washington airport entered the top-10 list in 2014 and has since grown very strongly.

  1. Salt Lake City: +9.5% more Delta flights than in S19
  2. Los Angeles: +0.3%
  3. Seattle: -0.7%
  4. Atlanta: -10.2%
  5. Minneapolis: -13.6%
  6. Boston: -13.6%
  7. Detroit: -15.5%
  8. New York JFK: -17.5%
  9. Raleigh Durham: -21.4%
  10. New York La Guardia: -29.9%
Salt Lake City is a standout performer. Delta’s seats there have grown by 9.5% in comparison to pre-COVID S19. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Flights, flights

It’s important to note that flights are just one measure of what is happening and must be used in context. For example, the figure, above, makes it seem that Delta has barely been growing at Atlanta.

And it’s true: in terms of flights, it has declined. In S11, it had 414,900; by S19, that had reduced to 407,596. In terms of seats, however, Delta has been growing quickly. It added 7.4 million between S11 and S19.

The decline in regional jets generally, especially smaller ones like this CRJ-200, helps to explain why total flights across these 10 airports haven’t changed much. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Far fewer regional jets

As Delta’s Atlanta flights have declined, its seats have increased. The reason: far fewer flights by regional jets. In S11, Delta had nearly 148,652 flights by them; come S19, it had reduced by 44% to 82,530. This pushed up seats-per-flight from 124 to 145, as follows, also helped by the retirement of its ‘Mad Dogs’.

Atlanta’s seats per flight have grown well, benefiting from the lower seat-mile costs and revenue opportunities that this results in. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Note that this summer has the highest ever to date: 146. This is partly from the Boeing 737-800 becoming more important, with its Atlanta seats up by nearly half since 2019, while there are a quarter more seats by the A321. Both are because of aircraft retirements.

What are your views on Delta’s leading airports? Comment below!

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