Delta profitable on domestic routes from Seattle

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Delta Air Lines generated a profit on all of its domestic routes from Seattle Tacoma International airport in March, says executive vice-president of network planning and revenue management Glen Hauenstein.

“We’ve very excited about the spool [up] in Seattle so far,” he says during an earnings call today. “In March, all of our domestic segments were profitable.”

Atlanta-based Delta is also seeing “high single digit unit revenue improvements” on a double-digit increase in capacity at the airport, says president Ed Bastian.

The carrier’s available seat miles (ASMs) in Seattle increased 13% in March compared to the same month a year ago, Innovata FlightMaps Analytics shows. It added new nonstop flights to Jackson Hole, Las Vegas, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Shanghai Pudong, and discontinued flights to Cincinnati and Osaka Kansai during the period.

Delta plans to add new domestic nonstops to Anchorage, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, San Jose and Tucson later in 2014, according to Innovata.

Most of the domestic routes compete with Delta’s codeshare partner Alaska Airlines.

Delta’s growth in Seattle has come under some scrutiny recently. Wolfe Research analyst Hunter Keay suggested that some of the airline’s new routes to Asia may not be performing as well as planned in a January report.

“Delta needs Seattle to work, particularly given the changes and the structure of its transpacific network,” he wrote. “We expect the Asian strategy to change in the coming quarters given many challenges.”

Hauenstein does not comment directly on the performance of Delta’s international network from Seattle but does say: “We’re well ahead of our own internal forecasts on Seattle.”

The airline anticipates becoming the largest in terms of revenue at Seattle Tacoma in the third quarter, he adds.

Delta executives revealed at least one discrepancy in their Seattle numbers. In his prepared remarks, Bastian said that about 65% of the carrier’s Seattle passengers connect. However, executives said in January that only 10% to 20% of its passengers connected.

When pushed on the issue, Delta executives say that the January numbers likely did not include all of the carrier’s traffic flows.