Delta plans to dramatically expand its transatlantic operation again next summer, including the five new routes that will fall under its new joint venture agreement with Air France.

The carrier's transatlantic network will grow from 36 cities to 46 by next June (see chart). Delta's new transatlantic destinations include London Heathrow, Lyon, Malaga, Paris Orly and Stockholm in Europe Cairo, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi in Africa and Amman in the Middle East.

Vice-president of network planning, Bob Cortelyou, says the new destinations continue Delta's strategy of going where other US carriers do not go: "We're in a different league now. Delta is now in the same league as the Middle Eastern and Asian carriers. Two years ago we were chasing JetBlue. Now we're chasing around Emirates."

Delta became the first US ­carrier to serve Africa last year when it launched Atlanta-Dakar-Johannesburg and New York JFK-Accra services. Delta is adding capacity on these routes and will launch in June a daily New York-Dakar flight, with three weekly flights continuing to Cape Town and four to Nairobi. "There's a lot of unmet demand to South Africa from the United States," Cortelyou says. "And I've been pleasantly surprised with the traffic out of Dakar itself. Dakar has worked out very well as a stop for us."

In conjunction with its new joint venture agreement with Air France, Delta is also adding three new routes to France: JFK-Lyon, JFK-Orly and Salt Lake City-Paris CDG. Delta executive vice-president network, revenue management and alliances, Glen Hauenstein, says the joint venture opens up new route opportunities because routes like Salt Lake-Paris, which is expected to only attract 30 to 35 point-to-point passengers, could not be sustained otherwise. "It's the most creative thing we're doing with the JV," he says. "I think it will be a home run. Butte-Budapest - that's the kind of market it connects."

The new joint venture will also cover from April 2008 Delta's new services to Heathrow, made possible by the lease of three slot pairs from Air France. Hauenstein says the carrier will initially operate two daily flights from JFK and one daily flight from Atlanta to Heathrow, and would like to add a Cincinnati service if it can ­secure more slots. He says Delta will still serve Gatwick with two daily flights to Atlanta and one each to Cincinnati and JFK.

Delta's dramatic 2008 transatlantic expansion is made possible by the acquisition of 15 Boeing 757s which are now being reconfigured for long-haul operations. Delta will use 757s to launch four new routes - JFK to Edinburgh, Lyon, Malaga and Orly. They will also replace 767-300s on eight existing routes: JFK to Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Manchester, Paris CDG and Shannon and Atlanta to Edinburgh and Shannon.

Hauenstein says the 767-300s now operating on these services will be redeployed to support new Delta routes including Atlanta-Stockholm, JFK-Dakar-Nairobi, JFK-Dakar-Cape Town, JFK-Cairo, JFK-Amman, JFK-Lagos, JFK-Tel Aviv and Salt Lake City-Paris.

Source: Airline Business