Delta eyes Detroit-Beijing as part of wider international expansion

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Delta Air Lines is seeking regulatory approval to add service to Asia, as part of a broader plan that will see the SkyTeam alliance member expand its international operations this spring and summer.

The US major has applied for US DOT authority to launch new nonstop flights between Detroit and Beijing on 1 July. The five-weekly, Boeing 777-200ER service would be Delta's third nonstop route between Detroit and China, complementing existing year-round service to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Delta is also looking to resume nonstop operations between its hub at Tokyo-Narita and Guangzhou, China on 6 April.

If approved, the Boeing 767-300ER service would reconnect two key SkyTeam hubs - Delta's at Tokyo-Narita and China Southern Airlines' at Guangzhou - after this route was suspended in 2009 amid the global economic downturn, notes Delta.

Additionally, Delta says it intends to resume flying nonstop from Atlanta to Shanghai on a twice-weekly basis beginning 5 June. The Boeing 777-200ER/LR service - first launched in 2008 - was temporarily suspended in 2009 due to depressed travel demand.

"With travel rebounding in Asia, Delta has decided to reactivate the Atlanta-Shanghai route on a reduced schedule for 2011, with future expansion possible based on performance," says Delta, adding that it has recently seen revenue growth of more than 50% in Asia.

Service also will be expanded for the peak travel season between Narita and Manila. Delta plans to add one new Boeing 757-200 flight between 5 April and 15 July to complement its daily year-round Boeing 747-400 service between the two cities.

Meanwhile, Delta's growth across the Atlantic in 2011 will be focused at London's Heathrow where it recently received new slot authorities from the US and EU; in Iceland where it will introduce its first-ever service to Reykjavik; at its joint venture hubs with Air France-KLM in Paris and Amsterdam where it will expand service to four US cities; and in Africa where it is adding new flights to Angola.

At Heathrow, Delta will add two daily flights to Boston and one daily flight to Miami effective 26 March, complementing existing nonstop service to New York JFK, Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis/St Paul.

Also on that day, Delta will add five new daily round-trip flights between Miami and Orlando; four new daily round-trip flights between Miami and Jacksonville; and five new daily round-trip flights between Miami and Tampa/St Petersburg.

The Bombardier CRJ200 flights - to be operated by Delta Connection carriers Comair and Pinnacle Airlines - will be timed to facilitate new connections to transatlantic flights from Miami.

Subject to government approval, new service between JFK and Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik will begin 2 June.

Delta also will expand its flights between Pittsburgh and Paris to daily service for the summer of 2011, up from five days per week in 2010; and add additional daily flights between Boston and Paris, JFK and Paris, and Seattle and Amsterdam.

"Each of the new routes between the US and Europe will be operated within the scope of Delta's transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Alitalia," says Delta.

As previously announced, the carrier will be adding additional Africa service from Atlanta when it begins flights between Atlanta and Luanda, Angola, with an intermediate stop in Dakar, Senegal, on 20 January.

"With double-digit revenue growth in most every international business market over the last year, our 2011 schedule reflects a measured response to business customers' desire for increased access to the world's most important business capitals," says Delta executive vice president - network planning, revenue management and marketing Glen Hauenstein.

Delta recently affirmed that its capacity will increase between 1% and 3% in 2011 - consistent with projected global economic growth - and its fleet will end this year with 91 fewer aircraft than in 2009.