ANALYSIS: Delta’s long pull down of Memphis

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Delta Air Lines will be flying less capacity out of its former Memphis hub than from Seattle - arguably its largest focus city - this October.

After the Atlanta-based carrier cuts service to 14 cities (two are seasonal reductions) and significantly reduces frequency to another 11 cities on 3 September, it will operate 174.6 million available seat kilometres (ASKs) from the Tennessee city in October, according to Innovata.

This compares to 933.9 million ASKs from Seattle and 288.1 million ASKs from Cincinnati, which is Delta's smallest hub (though also shrinking) during the month, Innovata shows. The airline's largest hub Atlanta is slated to see 5.7 billion ASKs in October.

Innovata

Cities cut include Baton Rouge, Fayetteville/Northwest Arkansas, Fort Lauderdale, Jackson, Knoxville, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Phoenix, St. Louis, Shreveport and Tulsa. Seasonal flights to Cancun and Seattle will also end, however, Delta says that these will resume in 2014.

Delta routes from Memphis, 3 September

Monthly frequencies will decrease significantly (more than five flights) to Columbus (Ohio), Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston Intercontinental, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Louisville, Nashville, Orlando, San Antonio and Washington National, Innovata shows.

Delta has been cutting capacity at Memphis since its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008. ASKs are down nearly two-thirds from October 2010 to October 2013, according to Innovata.

Innovata

Comparing just August to October - before and after the cuts - Delta's capacity from Memphis will be down 15.8%, Innovata shows.

The Memphis drawdown is part of the airline's strategy to reduce the number of 50-seat regional jets in its fleet to as few as 100 by the end of 2015 and replace them with 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900s in its regional fleet and 110-seat Boeing 717-200s in its mainline fleet.

Delta says that the 50-seaters being used on flights to and from Memphis will "exit the system" after the 3 September cuts. It declines to comment on the number of aircraft.

The carrier had 305 50-seat regional aircraft in its fleet at the end of March.

Glen Hauenstein, executive vice-president of network planning and revenue management at Delta, explained in December that reducing 50-seat flying to places like Memphis and replacing the capacity with larger aircraft to its larger hubs, for example Atlanta, was more economically efficient and attractive to its customers.

Cincinnati is also feeling the impact of these cuts. The airport saw capacity on Delta drop by 27.5% between June 2010 and this June, according to Flightglobal/Innovata data. However, the numbers show a slight levelling off in ASKs at the northern Kentucky airport while Memphis continued to shrink between 2012 and 2013.