Delta Likely To Fly To Mumbai Out Of Atlanta

Filed Under: Delta

In late May, Delta announced that they plan to launch flights to Mumbai in 2019. This came shortly after the US and UAE reached an agreement in the Open Skies debate, which Delta credited for being able to launch this route. However, since the agreement essentially maintained the status quo, it’s clear that the timing of this announcement was political.

Obviously Delta flying to India is now finally economical thanks to their partnership with Jet Airways, which will provide connecting traffic for this flight. They didn’t have this partnership a few years ago.

When Delta first announced their intentions to fly to India, they didn’t reveal out of which hub they’d do so. Here was my speculation at the time:

The way I see it, the most likely options are Atlanta, New York JFK, or Detroit (roughly in that order).

  • Atlanta to Mumbai would cover a distance of ~8,500 miles; Atlanta is Delta’s biggest hub, so my first assumption is that this is the most likely
  • Detroit to Mumbai would cover a distance of ~8,000 miles; on the surface this doesn’t seem like the most logical route, though perhaps it’s a happy middle ground between Atlanta and New York, as the route is a bit shorter than out of Atlanta, and it’s also one of Delta’s more reliable hubs
  • New York JFK to Mumbai would cover a distance of ~7,800 miles; geographically New York JFK makes the most sense since they’d be able to funnel the most passengers through there efficiently, and New York to Mumbai is also a big market, though Air India and United already operate routes between the two cities

While the hub out of which Delta will fly to India still hasn’t been set in stone, Delta’s SVP of Network Planning hinted at the most likely course of action for the airline, as noted by The Atlanta Business Chronicle.

He says that the airline is considering both Atlanta and New York for the new route, but “we’d probably prep Atlanta,” and that this is a “great investment” for the entire Southeast network.

So that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me, though it’s interesting to hear the Atlanta is the first choice, and that Detroit definitely isn’t happening. At 8,510 miles, this would be Delta’s longest route, and just slightly longer than their Atlanta to Johannesburg route, which is 8,439 miles.

This leads me to believe that Delta will use a 777-200LR for their route to Mumbai. Best I can tell, Mumbai to Atlanta would be right at the operational limit for an A350-900, and they might have to take a hit on either cargo or passengers to make it work, at least on days with strong headwinds. Or at least it would be very close, I imagine.

For that matter it’s perfectly logical that they’d use the 777-200LR for both Johannesburg and Mumbai, since they’re by far the two longest routes the airline operates. Delta is also in the process of updating their 777-200LRs with Delta One Suites and premium economy.

Are you surprised that Delta is leaning towards Atlanta for their flight to India?

Comments
  1. Doesn’t Atlanta give subsidies for new international destinations….maybe that’s what attracted Delta…..hmmmm…….

  2. Doesn’t surprise me at all. There’s a large Indian population here…a co-worker extended family lives a couple hundred miles east of BOM and is very aware of the difficulties in going there from here. As for the rest of the region one stop in ATL could be more attractive than going further afield for the connection, and definitely more attractive than two connections to get there.

    Heck, I’d be giving a nonstop to the subcontinent from here strong consideration myself, regardless of alliance, if it happens.

  3. @Chuck – Yes. What’s your point?

    Lucky references the Open Skies resolution with the ME3 because US carriers used to argue they couldn’t compete with ME3 for US-India passengers (among others) due to ME3 subsidies.

  4. ATL has a very large indian community especially the southeast. Makes perfect sense. New York is pretty saturated.

  5. @Chuck Lesker

    You’re right. Which is why DL’s argument that the ME3 (EK, EY and QR) made the India route impossible complete and utter nonsense.

  6. ATL would certainly divert passengers from Qatar’s ATL/ Doha flight which many passengers use to connect to India. This will further weaken Qatar’s presence in ATL.

  7. Delta might get corporate travel .. but most of the Indian pooulation would prefer Qatar any day over delta

  8. @tom . Qatar connects to many indian cities from doha. Travel time is also nicely split. like 14h + 4 h.
    Continuous travel for 19 / 18 hr from Atl to MUM will be very difficult with kids

  9. I still think Detroit would have been a logical choice as well, perhaps not better than ATL, but certainly as good. Very good connections throughout the US and certainly much better than a connection in JFK. Better weather year-round than ATL, meaning many fewer delays. The huge Indian community in Michigan and Ohio would have benefited from this, but ATL is an easy connection, too. To that end, it’s kind of a toss up. But it is important to note that DTW has no ME3 carrier, nor does it have flights on Turkish. It’s obviously very much a Delta stronghold, although post NWA other carriers have certainly ventured in. It seems like Delta could have more easily convinced people from NY/BOS to connect to India via Detroit, which is far less out of the way than ATL. But we will see. When flying that far, I guess a few hundred miles hardly matters.

  10. They also have a small a350 presence at Atlanta and no aircraft currently based at JFK capable of flying the route so from Atlanta on 777 makes perfect sense.

  11. I didn’t realize it would be longer than the JNB route. Wow that would be a very long flight.
    Did you read about the bedbug infestation on Air India EWR-BOM route?

  12. I doubt that anyone in Atlanta could even point out Mumbai (or heck, even India) on a map. And on the other side, probably Atlanta isn’t on the vacation map even for an Indian well-heeled enough to afford the trip. So for this route’s market, that leaves… nothing, except a sliver of VFRs.

  13. Am I surprised Delta is likely to choose its biggest hub for its Mumbai flight? No, no I am not…

  14. Now delta has to time this flight properly. We, Indians are tired of 2am/4am departures.
    A flight like 9pm dep from BOM and 5am arrival at ATL, 6pm dep from ATL and 7pm(+1) arrival at BOM can do wonders. Remember timings are a reason why AI’s EWR BOM is still surviving. If properly timed DL can get QR out of the market soon.
    Departing at 4am from BOM just to reach ME after three hours and again spending three hours in ME hubs…. sorry I’m not a zombie to do that. Like me, there are lots of Indians who will agree to even pay a premium for not traveling through ME and not departing at ungodly hours.
    All the best DL and Skyteam!!

  15. DTW on A350 and possibly upgauge to 77L. DL might even be crazy enough to switch the orders to ULR and use them for Asian routes out of DTW. (cough cough HKG SIN BKK)

    South Asians are EVERYWHERE not just Atlanta.
    DTW would be a better connection than ATL.

    @Lucky – While less likely, why did you cut out MSP. It is about the same distance as DTW. Even MSP itself sucks, it can definitely provide flow PAX all over North America equally as good as DTW.

  16. I am not sure if a non-stop service from Mumbai to Atlanta given that it would be blocked at over 17 hours and there is limited O&D demand which is critical for the viability of such ULH services. I fear that this may go the same way as American’s non stop service to Chicago that had super high load factors but simply couldn’t get the yields to service. If Delta decides to operate its gas guzzling 777 LRs which they may have to given that this route is at the outer edge of the A350’s operating range then it will be even more difficult.

    Both India and the US have heterogenous traffic flows where passengers are traveling across different city paid. Given the lack of seamless connectivity (baggage transfers)!for domestic connections in the US and India, a transit in Atlanta or Mumbai does not add any value for a customer flying from Mumbai to Dallas or Atlanta to Chennai for instance versus a European or Middle Eastern hubs that will offer a more superior and efficient connection.

    A JFK to Mumbai route would work far better as there is far more O&D demand and the market is big enough to support three services given that a majority of the traffic between these cities still transits. Delta would be able to balance the mix of transit and O&D passengers to optimise profitability- something they can’t do with Atlanta.

    Even a service from LAX could have been a better bet. I expect that Delta will shift this route to JFK soon.

  17. a: I just went from EWR-LHR on United for 60K miles in Business Class… check this! Delta wanted 280,000 on all days for the next month with ZERO partner availability from the Northeast US. Im just trying tor burn some old DL Skymiles, clueless as to why anyone would deal with these thugs. I bet ATL-BOM will be 750,000 miles one way for business class.

    FYI… United has been 70-80% cheaper in miles on most routes i checked for all cabins and sometimes had over 20 flight options last minute including partners. LH First Class was often less than half the price of DL Business and consistent with DL coach. So it seems DL fliers will fly coach to India through ATL, enjoy the SkyClub. Meanwhile UA fliers will be in LH First Class through FRA! ha!

  18. @Eskimo Bangkok is not an option. No US airline can serve Thailand until they upgrade their safety rating.

  19. Aman – you’re forgetting there are already two non stops to BOM from NYC and one to DEL. This obviously influences the decision making. Also, ATL area contains nearly 100K Indian Americans. While this is dwarfed by NYC/NJ 500K people, when you look at major airline hub cities, this is number 2.

  20. I flew to India from ATL several times in the early 2000s, and all these flights had Paris stopovers. I’ve been considering a trip to India for next year, and will be interested to see what award levels will be in J. I’m not optimistic, since I can do cheap positioning flights to NYC for airlines offering better award levels.

  21. Regarding comments that Qatar with a layover in Dohai in the middle of the night is a better experience than Delta nonstop….Keep in mind Qatar offers awful 10 abreast seating on a B777 in Economy versus Delta 9 abreast. That does make a difference on a long haul flight.

  22. I flew this route the last time it operated. If I remember correctly, it was actually ATL-JFK-BOM. I don’t remember any more why DL discontinued this route, so I’m wondering what has changed this time around.

  23. Vijay- agree. But demand would depend on both ends of the market and the outbound demand to nyc is far more considering tourist and business travel. Typically VFR visitors such as the Indian diaspora are price sensitive and may not be able to sustain the premium cabins that make or break a ULH route. New York in itself attracts way more business traffic which means there will be ample business class demand.

    It’s also important to note that a majority of passengers flying to nyc from Delhi and Mumbai take transit flights. An additional service will get more people to fly direct. Delta also still has the option of carrying transit passengers as well plus geographically New York offers less back tracking to a majority of US destinations.

    Ultimately American couldn’t make a non-stop Delhi Chicago service work in spite of having zero completion (AI didn’t fly to Chicago then). Chicago has more O&D demand from India then Atlanta does and the issue was never filling the planes (they had load factors touching 90%) but more about them not being able to sustain the pricing from largely transit passengers.

    Contrary to the US airline rhetoric, Gulf carriers have way more capacity from India today then they had then not to mention that the overall amount of completion from European and Indian carriers has increased.

    Question is why would it work now if it didn’t work then?

  24. Aman – You can’t compare Indian aviation ten years back to Indian aviation now. The India US market has grown immensely. With the growth, there is a section of people (VFR or other) who will be ready to shell out a premium to travel at convenient timings. Departing from India at 4am just to reach ME hubs with lots of shopping and then wait three hours for next leg is no ones dream. Remember ME3 fanboys don’t constitute major share in India US market. DL has to time the flight correctly. A 9pm departure from BOM and 5am arrival at ATL will do wonders. People traveling to US cities other than ATL will also agree to pay a premium to delta. So yes even connecting pax will pay a premium if the flight is timed like this.
    In fact recent events like AI’s success at SFO and EY cancelling SFO should speak that now Indians are taking luxury in a way they have never before. Similarly AI’s EWR BOM flight is surviving because the return flight to BOM arrives at noon unlike UA’s which arrives late night. Convenient timing once again.
    If someone has to worry about this new flight, it’s QR. And I’m sure their days at ATL are numbered.

  25. All my Indian colleagues flying back to India from EWR. None of them fly ME3.
    Ideal connection is “short+long”. “Long+short” is like killing them and feels extremely terrible.
    DL might succeed since Atlanta, Roswell, Alpharetta, Duluth, and Johns Creek have enough Indian communities. And ATL is a great place to transfer to another Indian gathering cities, such as Austin or Dallas.

  26. @Tom – QR flys the A350 ATL-DOH not the 77W. So it’s 3-3-3 just like DL’s 777s, but QR is a far better experience in both Y & J vs DL.

  27. Why not ATL-DEL on A359? DEL is not an insignificant 9W hub (assuming DL is interested in codesharing with them).

  28. @Vijay – not really true. DFW, IAD, IAH, LAX, ORD, and SFO (if you combine Silicon Valley) have Indian populations that dwarf ATL. IAH and PHL are similar. Metro ATL had a sizeable Indian population, but it ranks 10th in the US by most measures. There will be O&D traffic, but I can count several other major airline hubs with more potential in that regard.

    That being said, as others have mentioned, the route has a few things (potentially) going for it:

    1) Timings, if DL does it right. A 16 hour flight to AUH/DOH/DXB followed by a short redeye that arrives at 4 am in India is absolutely brutal. Even if I have to overnight at BOM, I’d much rather do that – I can get a hotel there, get some rest, then continue on in the morning. Meanwhile an overnight departure from BOM with an early morning (5-6 am) return to the US is ideal for fighting jetlag, and allows you to get at least a partial day of work in even after a connection.
    2) DL’s Y configuration (3-3-3) is superior to the ME3 (3-4-3). No matter how ME3 fanboys try to spin it, 10-abreast Y is awful for such a long flight.
    3) Many would much rather connect at a US hub, even though it involves clearing customs and rechecking bags at ATL. I know I would – I have a ton more options to get home from ATL in case of IRROPs.

  29. @MeanMeosh exactly!! Timings will play a critical role in this flight.
    DL’s upgraded 777s are better than QR. However no use explaining this to people who like to leave their homes at odd hours and spend three hours at ME hubs because their you can do lots of “shopping “

  30. I think people that like 3-3-3 over 3-4-3 are subtly suggesting that everyone should have only one kid.

    People having two or more kids are selfish brats and should have to pay more taxes.

    Agreed!

  31. Excellent move by Delta. Atlanta has a large subcontinental diaspora and I can see many connecting in ATL from other regional hubs.

  32. I lived in that city for a year and a half, and most of my colleagues referred to it as Bombay and themselves as Bombayites. I asked about the Mumbai name, and got told the story about why it got changed. Basically, Maharashtra has two fascist parties: Shiv Sena & MNS. They hate other Indians, and are known for causing trouble (google trashing of Indian railways recruitment centre for refusing to give Marathis preference). Hence, I call it Bombay as that’s what the rational locals call it, while Marathi chauvinists call it Mumbai.

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