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VOL. 129 | NO. 154 | Friday, August 08, 2014

New Delta Cuts Reflect Changes at Memphis Airport

By Amos Maki

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Delta Airlines is once again cutting service at Memphis International Airport, eliminating flights from Memphis to Denver and Austin, Texas, in September.

Delta Airlines is reducing service from Memphis, eliminating flights from Memphis to Denver and Austin, Texas, and will temporarily suspend service to Las Vegas this winter.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The airline, which formerly operated a fortress hub at Memphis International, will also temporarily suspend service to Las Vegas this winter. Denver is still served by both United Airlines and Frontier Airlines.

Delta did not disclose the reasons for the latest reductions to Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority executives, but lack of demand and lower projected revenue, competition from other carriers and seasonal adjustments could have played a role, said Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Airport Authority.

“Air service is a recipe that takes a lot of ingredients,” Brockman said. “They don't offer us a detailed explanation as to why.”

Delta will be adding two Memphis flights to the airline's global hub in Atlanta.

“Clearly, they're trying to push more people through Atlanta,” Brockman said.

While Delta is eliminating some flights, the number of available seats on Delta flights will actually increase because the airline will be adding larger jets to its fleet.

Delta's number of nonstop destinations will go from 20 to 17 in November, and the airport's number of nonstop destinations will go from 26 to 24, meaning passengers flying from Memphis will have to make more connections. Before Delta began downsizing its Memphis hub several years ago, the airline offered nonstop flights to more than 50 destinations from Memphis.

Delta previously dropped service from Memphis to Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio and Tampa, and reduced service to other destinations.

The flight reductions are a reflection of larger changes at Memphis International, which is transitioning from a hub airport dominated by connecting flights to one focused on generating more origin and destination traffic.

“As an origin-and-destination market that is reinventing its air service, these are the challenges we now embrace,” Brockman said.

The airport has been courting new carriers, resulting in fresh competition for Delta. For instance, Frontier began a Memphis to Denver route in March, and American Airlines-US Airways added nonstop flights to Philadelphia in June.

“(Delta) eliminating Denver quite frankly could be a matter of competition from Frontier,” Brockman said.

Frontier is adding service to Washington Dulles in September. Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are each adding a flight to Houston in November.

The overall number of flights at Memphis International in November will increase to 83 from 82.

In an effort to grow service in Memphis, Airport Authority officials will be taking their message to the upcoming World Routes 2014 forum, being held Sept. 20-23 in Chicago. The event is expected to attract thousands of aviation professionals, with representation from hundreds of airlines, airports and tourism authorities.

During last year’s event, Airport Authority officials met with representatives from American Airlines and Philadelphia International Airport. American added three new daily nonstop flights between Memphis and Philadelphia in June.

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