Boston Logan International airport is Delta Air Lines newest hub, in a rare growth move by a US network carrier establishing a new connecting complex.

"We've been making significant investments in Boston this year… this has really enabled us to graduate Boston from what we consider a focus city to our newest coastal hub," says Amy Martin, managing director of domestic network planning at the Atlanta-based carrier, speaking at the Airport Council International-North America's JumpStart conference in Nashville today.

Delta has announced eight new markets from Boston to-date this year, including Chicago, Lisbon and Washington National, that combined will buoy its schedule at Logan to up to 150 peak day flights, she says.

delta a330neo 1


The airline's capacity in Boston is scheduled to increase 14.5% year-over-year in 2019, compared to a roughly 4% increase systemwide, Cirium schedules data shows.

It is rare for a US network carrier to announce a new hub. Delta made the last such move with the opening of its Seattle Tacoma hub in 2014. More often the opposite occurs, with carriers closing hubs, including United Airlines in Cleveland in 2014 and Delta in Memphis in 2013.

American Airlines and United are focused, instead, on expanding their existing hubs. American plans to operate up to 900 daily flights from its Dallas/Fort Worth connecting complex this summer, and United is focused on expanding connections over its Chicago O'Hare, Denver and Houston Intercontinental mid-continent hubs.

Boston will act as a secondary transatlantic gateway for Delta, says Martin. The carrier will serve six points in Europe – Amsterdam, Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London Heathrow and Paris – from Logan this summer, and as well as Manchester, UK, and Rome with its joint venture partners Virgin Atlantic Airways and Alitalia, schedules show.

"Boston is actually very well positioned geographically to be a connecting point for US passengers going transatlantic," she says. "As we're getting to kind of our maximum capacity at [New York] JFK, using Boston as a secondary transatlantic gateway makes a lot of sense."

Delta's reclassification of Boston as a hub deepens its competition with JetBlue Airways, the largest carrier in the market. The carriers already compete on most routes from the New England city, with Delta and Virgin Atlantic already planning new service to London Gatwick next year in what is seen as an effort to pre-empt JetBlue's planned Boston-London launch in 2021.

"We're really focused on reinforcing our position as the number one global carrier in Boston," says Martin.

JetBlue carried nearly double the number of passengers as Delta from Boston in 2018, US Department of Transportation data shows. The New York-based airline had a 28% share of Logan's 39.3 million passengers that year, while Delta had a 17.3% share.

Delta is also reclassifying some of its smaller cities as focus cities. Nashville and San Jose, California, have joined its list of domestic focus operations that also includes Austin, Cincinnati and Raleigh/Durham, says Martin.

The carrier plans to grow capacity by nearly 10% in Nashville and 23.1% in San Jose this year, schedule show.

"Delta wants to be the premier network carrier in all these markets," Ailevon Pacific managing director Brad DiFiore tells FlightGlobal at JumpStart.

Source: Cirium Dashboard