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Delta Restarts Two Routes To Europe & Adds Cape Town To Its Network


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It has been a while since I’ve been able to use the word “restarts” or the phrase “adds xxx to its network” so it’s incredibly nice to be able to see that some airlines are starting to restart services that were suspended towards the beginning of the current crisis and some are even adding services to new destinations (even if it is as a direct result of a negative change brought about by the current pandemic).

As of today, Delta is operating two more routes between the United States and Europe than it operated last week (it plans to offer nine transatlantic routes in June) and the airline’s president told yesterday’s employee virtual town hall that Delta would be modifying its operations to/from South Africa to include Cape Town when those services resume.

Delta Restarts Two Transatlantic Routes

As of 21 May 2020 (today) Delta is once again operating these two key transatlantic routes (HT: Routes Online):

Atlanta – Frankfurt

DL014 ATL 17:55 – 08:55+1 day FRA (Tue, Thur & Sat)
DL015 FRA 11:40 – 15:40 ATL (Wed, Fri & Sun)

For the time being, the route will only be operated three times per week (a daily service was offered prior to the pandemic) and the airline will be employing Airbus A330-300 aircraft between Atlanta and Frankfurt.

Delta One a330 – Image courtesy of Delta

Detroit – London (LHR)

DL016 DTW 18:00 – 06:40+1 day LHR (Tue, Thur & Sat)
DL017 LHR 12:55 – 16:15 DTW (Wed, Fri & Sun)

Delta will be using its 767 aircraft on this route which, because they’re of the -300ER variety, do not offer the airline’s Premium Economy cabin. They do, however, offer 26 Delta One (Business Class) seats and 35 Delta Comfort+ seats.

Delta One 767

These are Delta’s tentative transatlantic plans for June 2020:

  • Atlanta to Amsterdam (daily)
  • Atlanta to Frankfurt (less than daily)
  • Atlanta to Lagos (less than daily)
  • Atlanta to Paris-Charles De Gaulle (less than daily)
  • Detroit to Amsterdam (daily)
  • Detroit to London-Heathrow (less than daily)
  • New York-JFK to Amsterdam (less than daily)
  • New York-JFK to Paris-Charles De Gaulle (less than daily)
  • New York-JFK to Tel Aviv (less than daily)​

All of these plans are subject to change and the route to/from Lagos is still subject to government approval.

Delta Adds Cape Town To Its Network

This time last week, Delta surprised quite a few people (including me!) when it announced that it would be retiring all 18 of its Boeing 777 aircraft by the end of the year. When confirming the retirements, Delta pointed out that it would be using its newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft on the routes that the 777s currently operate but it failed to say how it would be dealing with the one route that its newer aircraft haven’t the range to fly – the Atlanta – Johannesburg route.

The issue for the airline is that, while its A350-900 (Delta’s longest-range aircraft) is capable of flying from Atlanta to Johannesburg, the aircraft is not capable of doing the return leg with a full complement of passengers thanks to the weight constraints encountered courtesy of Johannesburg’s elevation.

(Aside: Air is thinner at altitude so, at altitude, aircraft are required to produce more thrust to get enough air moving under/over the wings to enable them to generate the lift they need to take off. With a full complement of passengers and enough fuel onboard to cover the 8,000+ miles between Johannesburg and Atlanta, an A350-900 would not be able to generate enough thrust to take to the skies.)

In yesterday’s virtual town hall for employees, Delta’s president (Glen Hauenstein) told staff that Delta would overcome the A350-900’s range issue by adding Cape Town to the airline’s route between Atlant and Johannesburg (HT: TPG)

On the outbound flight, the A350 will fly non-stop between Atlanta and Johannesburg while on the return journey, the aircraft will stop off in Cape Town to take on more fuel (fuel it couldn’t take on in Johannesburg) before continuing on back to Atlanta.

No date has been given to indicate when the service to Johannesburg (and now Cape Town) will restart.

A Quick Thought

While some are saying that this is a great move by Delta and that Cape Town will be a valuable addition to the airline’s network, I’m not so sure. The addition of Cape Town to the network may be very good news for flyers (Cape Town is a great place to visit), but for Delta I don’t see it being anything more than a necessary move which allows it to keep Johannesburg as a destination.

If Cape Town was a legitimately profitable destination for Delta, it would be fair to assume that the airline would have already been flying there before the current crisis (either non-stop or as part of its service to/from Johannesburg) so, as that wasn’t the case, this looks more like a band-aid to solve the airline’s Johannesburg problem rather than something that will make any positive difference to the airline’s bottom line.

I’m no route planning expert so am I missing anything (always likely!) or does that sound about right?

Featured image Dan Grinwis

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