It’s not exactly news that Delta is increasing it’s footprint in Seattle. It’s been dropping bombs on competitors and partners alike (talking about you, Alaska Airlines).
They started to increase flights in and out of Seattle and throwing around a lot of miles, both redeemable and elite qualifying miles.
And a couple weeks ago, they started using the word “hub” to describe Seattle. Maybe I’m naive, but I really didn’t think 2014 would be the year that the airlines would be looking to add hubs. There are folks smarter than me (lots of them) and especially folks smarter than me in this area, but I wonder if this ultimately means Delta might shrink Salt Lake City a bit. Flying over a hub to get to another one isn’t usually a good strategy, part of the reason why I expected Phoenix will be a bit de-emphasized in the New American.
There have been very small rumors that this may drive Alaska into the hands of American. I haven’t given that a lot of thought but it doesn’t seem likely to me right now. I do expect that Alaska and American will increase their codeshare relationship (they already kind of started doing that). But, I don’t see any reason that American is going to be poking the beehive trying to get approval from DOJ for another merger.
Increasing that codeshare relationship will likely be good for both Alaska and American. Alaska is a well-run, profitable airline that is now being picked up by a much larger airline in Delta. And, despite my misgivings about their SkyMiles program, Delta runs quite well. They have a really nice in-flight product, they run on time and have pretty good customer service. They can certainly give Alaska a run for their money.
Delta has shown that an airline can right its ship in tough economic times and thrive while it’s competitors aren’t seeing quite the same gains. Delta remains much more consistently profitable over the last couple of years compared to the likes of United and American. They’ve reinvested quite a bit in their product, and it’s likely to carry them even further.
For me, the question is can American do the same? I don’t have concrete evidence to support my assumption, but my view of the American customer is one who appreciates good service and in-flight products more so than their counterpart customer of United. I think this is where American’s investment in Wifi, new airplanes and catering for their premium cabins are all helping them make progress where their network may put them at a disadvantage. Can American follow the same path of providing a great product and charging more money for it?
Lots of questions without answers just yet.