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Delta Long-Haul Flights Return to Midwest Hub, Focus Cities
Banking on the potential availability of a vaccine, the gradual return of demand and the lifting of international travel restrictions, Delta Air Lines is adding frequencies and reopening routes in its winter 2020 and summer 2021 long-haul flying schedule. In line with IATA expectations for a multi-year recovery to pre-COVID-19 flying levels, Delta is remaining confident in its growth strategy and is aiming to fly about 50 additional transoceanic flights next summer.
The airline’s revised schedule offers hope for an industry that is facing its worst crisis in its century-long history. The updated schedule is also good news for Minneapolis-St. Paul, Delta’s second-largest hub by passenger numbers as of 2018. Like many airports across the country, Minneapolis’s long-haul services were abruptly put on pause in March as airlines dealt with the onset of the pandemic’s effect in the U.S. and Europe.
Prior to March 2020, Delta offered transoceanic flights from Minneapolis to Seoul, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Paris, London and Reykjavik. In 2018, a little under 5% of the airport’s 26 million passengers flying Delta flew on one of these six long-haul routes.
After over a year without any Delta long-haul flying, Minneapolis is expected to regain service to five of its six long-haul Delta destinations on March 28, 2021. Both Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Incheon International Airport just outside Seoul will return with an initial five weekly flights. Both transpacific flights will be operated using the airline’s flagship Airbus A350-900 fleet.
On the European end, the Atlanta-based airline will resume flying to Paris, London and Amsterdam as of March 28 from Minneapolis. Amsterdam flights will be operated twice daily while Paris and London will see one daily service. London flights will be operated by Delta’s refurbished Boeing 767-400ER fleet, which offers a modified version of the new Delta One Suites and the airline’s relatively new premium economy cabin.
Delta’s Friday announcement was in line with Minneapolis Airport’s predictions. A spokesperson for the airport told AirlineGeeks that the airport does not expect the airline to return to long-haul flying until the spring of next year.
In addition to these services, Delta joint-venture partners KLM and Air France also operated flights to Minneapolis prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Air France’s summer seasonal service is scheduled to return for summer 2021 with five weekly flights operated on the carrier’s 777-200 from May 3.
KLM will be the first airline to resume long-haul flying from Minneapolis in two months. The Delta partner will make its comeback to the Twin Cities — a common nickname for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area — on Oct. 25 with four weekly flights this upcoming winter.
Reykjavik is the only European destination to which Delta has no plans of resuming service from Minneapolis at this time. Prior to 2020, Icelandair also competed with Delta on the route. The Icelandic carrier confirmed to AirlineGeeks that it does not expect to return to Minneapolis until later in 2021.
Delta Continues Restoring International Flying
With a firm date now set for the resumption of long-haul flying from its second-largest hub, Delta also had good news for its primary hub in the West. Aside from Minneapolis, Salt Lake City is the only other primary hub that has yet to see a return of long-haul flying. Daily flights to Amsterdam and Paris from the Utah city will return on March 28, both operated on the airline’s older 767-300 fleet.
Three of Delta’s focus cities are also scheduled to resume Europe flights for summer 2021. Portland will see the resumption of its Amsterdam route with four weekly flights onboard the A330. Cincinnati’s route to Paris will also resume at four times weekly with flights operated onboard the 767-300.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Delta’s original focus city located just 400 miles from its Atlanta fortress hub, will also see the return of its Paris flights. The flight from Raleigh will commence at five times weekly and will also be served using one of the airline’s older 767-300s. Delta’s Indianapolis to Paris flight is currently not scheduled to resume next summer.
With the Boeing 777-200 retirement coming up at the end of October, Delta is shifting its various fleets to incorporate new and refurbished jets such as the A350, Airbus A330-900 and 767-400ER on key routes where business travel is expected to make a swifter comeback and on routes that face competition.
Despite the influx of new wide-body jets Delta has received over the past few years, older aircraft such as the Boeing 767-300 and the A330 remain a vital part of the carrier’s transoceanic operations. Certain aircraft within these fleets are scheduled to eventually sport the airline’s new cabins while some of the oldest 767-300s will be retired at the end of 2020.
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