Delta Is Ending Flights To Hong Kong

Filed Under: Delta

This is a pretty radical move for Delta to make. Delta has announced today that they’ll be ending flights to Hong Kong as of October 4, 2018. Presently the airline operates 6x weekly Boeing 777 flights between Seattle and Hong Kong, which is their only flight to Hong Kong. It’s pretty crazy to think that the world’s second largest airline won’t have any presence at all in such a global city.

Delta says this was a “difficult business decision,” and that Delta passengers can continue to reach Hong Kong via Seoul Incheon on Korean Air, which is their joint venture partner.

The airline also says that they’ll resume flights between Seattle and Osaka starting in 2019, using a Boeing 767. No exact date has been revealed yet for the new route. Delta used to fly between Seattle and Osaka, and they ended the route in 2013. I have no doubts that they’ll do well with this route this time around, given how much they’ve built up their presence in Seattle in the past five years.

Why can’t Delta make Hong Kong work?

It seems preposterous to me that Delta won’t operate any flights to Hong Kong. That’s especially the case when you consider that Northwest as a dominant US airline in Asia back in the day.

In fairness, at this point Delta is in a tougher position than American and United when it comes to Hong Kong:

  • American only started flying to Hong Kong in 2014, when they launched a Dallas to Hong Kong flight, and now they also operate a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong; this route works well for them since Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific’s hub, so they have lots of connectivity opportunities beyond Hong Kong thanks to that
  • Historically United was the strongest US carrier in Hong Kong, and they now fly from Chicago, Newark, and San Francisco to Hong Kong; presumably they’ve secured most of the major corporate contracts with US airlines to/from Hong Kong because of this

American 777-300ER at Hong Kong Airport

In many ways I feel like Delta almost didn’t try, though. For example, I wonder if they ever approached Hong Kong Airlines regarding the possibility for some sort of a codeshare agreement, in hopes of doing a better job of attracting passengers traveling beyond Hong Kong. These kinds of one-off partnerships can often make a lot of sense. For example, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific have a partnership for this very reason, even though they’re in different alliances.

Delta used to fly from Detroit to Hong Kong, but they ended that route in 2012. Since then, Seattle to Hong Kong has been their only nonstop route from the US to Hong Kong (until a few years ago they flew from Tokyo to Hong Kong). It’s clear the route has been losing money, though in some ways I’m still surprised they’re cutting the route, since Hong Kong seems like a key global city for an airline like Delta to serve. Sometimes airlines keep certain routes around for the purposes of maintaining global corporate contracts that are valuable, where the route itself may lose money, but it contributes to overall profitability.

I guess Delta just wasn’t getting enough of that from the Hong Kong route.

It’s also interesting that Delta can’t blame this on a Gulf carrier, for once. 😉

Is this Cathay Pacific’s chance to start flying to Seattle?

For years there have been rumors that Cathay Pacific would add flights to Seattle. Seattle has grown like crazy lately, and it’s the closest transpacific US gateway there is.

It sure seems to me like this is the perfect time for Cathay Pacific to start flying to Seattle. Some might say “well wait a second, Delta couldn’t make it work, why would Cathay Pacific try?” The difference is that Cathay Pacific would have access to a lot of connecting traffic in Hong Kong, so they wouldn’t have the same issue Delta has.

They’d have connectivity on both ends, as they partner with Alaska in the US, and have their own route network in Asia. So if they were considering the route in the past, then they have all the more reason to launch the route now, since they’d have the market to themselves.

I certainly could be wrong, but I’m going to guess that Cathay Pacific will announce service to Seattle in the coming months.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

Bottom line

It’s surprising to see Delta pull out of Hong Kong completely. On one hand I get it, as they were clearly in third place among US carriers when it came to their Hong Kong service. While it’s not unreasonable for them to cut the service if it was losing money (which it seems was the case), it’s still crazy to think we won’t see Delta planes in Hong Kong anymore.

What do you make of Delta ending flights to Hong Kong, and do you think Cathay Pacific will now start flying to Seattle?

(Tip of the hat to Dennis)

  1. Man, you just can’t help on taking a dig at Delta at every opportunity while praising the ME3 can you? More factuality and less tabloid-style reporting would be a nice change once in a while.

  2. Did you miss the announcement of the MSP-Seoul? Appears they are focusing on Seoul as the new Asian hub and trying to maximize business. About time MSP gets another direct Asia route. Best airport in America, and underutilized.

  3. I’m guessing the companies in Seattle don’t have a big presence in HKG and they can’t get any non-leisure support from the connections in SEA. I completely agree that they aren’t trying here and could probably make it work quite well if they moved the flight to ATL or even JFK

  4. I’m not surprised by this at all. Providing service to Hong Kong at a profit was difficult for Northwest, too. Besides the NRT_HKG flight, over the years NW also tried SEA-HKG, MSP-HKG, and DTW-HKG nonstops and eventually cancelled all of them. With the de-hubbing of the Narita hub the writing was on the wall. Even if the SEA-HKG was marginally profitable, and I doubt it was, there are likely better uses for the plane elsewhere in the network.

  5. It’s crazy. Why not at least couple it with Tokyo, I wonder? Heck why not fly there from LAX? I’m very confused

  6. With MSP-ICN being announced, it appears the JV and ICN are going to be DLs focus, outside of a few other markets they deem important enough for non-stop service. I would have thought HKG would have made that list as important enough. This will really only affect cities with service to SEA that don’t have non-stop service to MSP/DTW/ATL or a KE gateway. All cities except for those will still have 1 or 2 stop service on DL/KE.

  7. This move could end up being good news if an exciting new destination opens up. Plenty of flights to Hong Kong.

  8. Makes me wonder whether DL should have purchased a decent size fleet of Dreamliners five years ago….certainly might have been a better plane for what is proving to be a thin route for them.

    The A350s only coming on now and they are already committed to other routes.

    To be out of HKG altogether is embarrassing.

  9. Surprised by this move too especially when you consider that YVR-HKG is a flagship Air Canada route that they’ve operated for decades (inherited from CP) that Cathay also flies. I get that AC operates that route more for leisure than business travellers, but they are still able to make it profitable. You’d think that greater Seattle would have a large Hong Kong community too like Vancouver, enough to support at least one flight per day.

  10. When you’re servicing an airport with one route, the costs of all associated ground support get loaded onto the costs for one flight. That couldn’t have made the business case very strong unless the load factor was very, very high. Clearly it wasn’t and between KE, CZ, and MU, DL clearly figured they had enough ways to get Paxton HKG with one stop service without wasting their own metal and paying for ground support in HKG.

    TL;dr: not surprised

  11. DL just wasn’t competitive. It usually required two stops: DTW/NRT. Even after they dismantled NRT ops and started the SEA-HKG flight, this still often required one stop to get to SEA. Let’s face it, given all the options of getting to HKG from the east coast, most travelers over here are not going to voluntarily opt for a redeye transcon after a transpac.

    Throwing this onto KE makes complete sense now that they have a jv.

  12. Not that surprised considering this is the same carrier that cut its nonstop flights from NYC to TYO. This would be a great opening for CX or even more reason for TG to launch SEA-BKK (though SFO might make more logistical sense).

  13. HKG airfares from the US have been very good over the past year. Increasing competition, easier connections at other airline’s hubs, and O&D traffic to populated cities probably all contributed to this route being dropped. Hopefully this slight loss in competition impacts HKG so little that fares remain low.

  14. Its truly a shock that a major global city like Hong Kong is not going to be directly linked to the Delta network. So much for the airline billing itself as a global brand.

  15. Makes sense for Cathay, especially to discourage Hong Kong Airlines from any further expansion into the U.S.

  16. Many better options from the PNW to Hong Kong and many better options to Hong Kong for anyone originating further east. Originating in the PNW, I can get to HKG by driving to YVR and taking one of several daily non-stop flights on CX, or AC – or I can fly from Seattle on connecting flights via EVA, Korean or ANA. I’ve done most of those in business class but never tried the Delta flight – because the product is functional but not competitive.

    I hope CX adds a flight from Seattle, I will not miss the drive to YVR but I will miss the CX lounge at YVR. That potential addition and the JAL flight that seems highly likely would both be stiff competition for Delta in Seattle, fostered in large part by Alaska’s connecting feed. The Delta-Alaska competitive situation here has been great for customers.

  17. I wonder if CX would want to fly to SEA considering they have put substantial investment in YVR. If I’m not mistaken, they have up to 17 weekly flights between HKG-YVR as well as a lounge at YVR airport that opened just two years ago.

  18. This is a stupid move by Delta.
    Cathay should take over the route, I’d much rather fly them anyways.

  19. Why don’t they fly to Taiwan instead? There’s a big market in Taipei. In fact Taiwanese airline EVA flies daily to SEA. Plus, Delta doesn’t have to deal with the unfair regulations and laws of flying into a Chinese airport if they fly to democratic Taiwan instead.

  20. My wife and I are booked on Delta One from Hong Kong to Seattle in December (great redemption, now too good to be true?). What happens to us? Delta is still showing me as booked and confirmed, but if the last flight out of Hong Kong is before December, are we just out of luck? Am I looking for alternate arrangements now?

  21. Now DL pulled out of HKG, who knows if DL operating SEA-SIN would be profitable; that route is on my wishlist for DL routes

    Yes, and DL can use CI feed from TPE.

  22. Like many posters, I agree this doesnt make a lot of sense. Is this equipment related (i.e. for some reason, they need the allocated 777s elsewhere?) Is this landing time/slot/connection related (i.e. poor availability of connections to their network based on landing times?) If they didnt want to go to HKG direct, could they have not done it via Japan? Could they have not just decrease frequency?

  23. Air Canada has been marketing very aggressively in Seattle. I’ve seen US$400+ fares from Seattle to HKG via YVR many times. It’s hard to compete against that kind of prices.

  24. You write:

    “It’s clear the route has been losing money”

    Where is it clear they are losing money? How do you know that?

  25. Delta cuts routes quickly without thinking of possible solutions and consequences. Routes like JFK-NRT, NRT-MNL are routes that were always full and if they had waited a little longer they could have turned a profit, but they cut it as soon as it started loosing money. Delta is an airline that’s doesn’t really wait out to see how a route will do, they generally cut very quickly. On the other hand ed Bastian loves codeshares so, but they are really ramping up their partnership with Korean air so it may be that they hesitated to get another Asian partner

  26. I always fly or drive up to Vancouver to fly to HK. Many more flight options & at much lower prices. I hope Cathay & HK Air comes here. More Chinese (albeit from the Mainland) are buying up property in the Seattle area now that more people are priced out of Vancouver, etc., so you would think filling one or two flights a day shouldn’t be a problem for a city the size of Seattle.

  27. Delta pulled out of Taiwan because China Eastern, owned by the Chinese communist government, didn’t want Delta to fly to Taiwan if Delta wanted to grow its business relationship with China Eastern. Plain and simple.

    Not flying to Hong Kong is like not flying to London or Paris, regardless of their partnership with Korean.

    In the last 3-4 years, Delta has stopped New York-Tokyo as well as its intra-Asia flights to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guam, Palau, Bangkok, and Saipan. I also believe at least one other Japanese city was axed. Before the Delta-Northwest merger, Northwest also flew to Kuala Lumpur.

  28. Are they stopping booking as of October 2018 or actual flights? I booked tickets for December and returning Jan. Wondering if they’ll change my flight?

  29. Maybe they see more potential in the KIX route and traded the slots. Also, NWA has a huge presence in Asia, but after the merger with Delta, they failed to secure a Japanese airline partner, and with the recession in japan, led to cutting flights. At the same time, HND got restricted so the airlines were all forced to move to NRT which was less profitable. They make more money off codeshares anyway so I think after they lost the NRT hub, they just moved to focus on the JV with KE instead of flying direct routes

  30. It wouldn’t surprise me if the rationale was more along the lines of how AA makes these decisions, though I could be wrong. Given that DL’s load factors on SEA-HKG were around 85% in 2017, the route couldn’t have been THAT unprofitable for them. Especially given that their fares aren’t particularly cheap. For reference, AA’s load factors for LAX-HKG were in the 70s in 2017. That said, I suspect DL calculated that they could make more money by operating those planes on other routes instead.

    When you consider the fact that their cartel (JV) with KE is now operational, it’s not surprising that they’d dump HKG. I’d suspect that flights like PDX-NRT-MNL are safe for now, as that’s probably quite a bit cheaper to operate. MNL isn’t a high yield location, but I imagine loads are pretty good.

  31. Many people outside of the USA would say “Delta who?” Exactly!. Not at the top or even on the list of many.

  32. This makes me a little sad. I did JFK-SEA-HKG a few times and it was easy, decent times, and a comfy Delta One product.

    I do miss the JFK-HRT route, but I guess with MQM back on KE, that’s the best JFK option now.

  33. I am not surprised. Seattle Hong Kong isn’t big enough to work as a point to point route and given the amount of completion on trans-pacific route, having a presence in Hong Kong makes no sense. They are better off strengthening their Seoul hub that would offer more efficient connections from multiple US destinations. It’s refreshing to see network/legacy carriers getting pragmatic rather then pursuing prestige routesz

  34. @Harrison
    “Plus, Delta doesn’t have to deal with the unfair regulations and laws of flying into a Chinese airport if they fly to democratic Taiwan instead.”

    What unfair regulations and laws that Delta has to deal with when flying to Hong Kong.

    I agreed with jordan that Delta overall has a very small brand image in Hong Kong. It is really “Delta who?” Northwest probably has a better brand image then Delta.

  35. @ Gregg : this isn’t a “SEA-HKG has low O&D so let’s cancel” issue. SEA-HKG always had low O&D, that part isn’t news.

    what’s more telling is that they had years trying to ramp it up, has the entire SEA domestic and transborder network to feed it, and has tons of other hubs that could move the service around if they wanted, but the revenue numbers are so bad that route planning can’t come up with any alternate simulation scenario where it would be better than just completely closing down the station and handing it over to the JV partner.

    Outsourcing places like BKK or TPE to JV ? every understands. now they’re also outsourcing NYC-TYO and entire-USA-to-HKG.

  36. @Rob
    Lucky was simply saying that Delta more than any other airline has used the the ME3 as a reason for dropping a flight in the past. He did say that he seemed surprised that Delta would drop their presence in Hong Kong since it is a major world city and as a global airline would no longer be there. But he acknowledged that without connecting feed he understood why they may want to drop it.
    Doesn’t really seem like Delta bashing but rather just questioning the reason.

  37. @John – Call them and see what they offer. I had a similar problem with an award ticket on a cancelled route after the US Air-AA merger in 2015 and was actually placed on better flights with a partner airline.

  38. Prices between Hong Kong and North America are at all time lows from what I can see in my own shopping. I was hoping they’d eventually upgrade their planes to Hong Kong with Premium Select, because even though those prices were super low, it still wasn’t worth it to me to be in a Comfort+ seat for such a long flight.

  39. You forget one thing Lucky, Delta is A LOT more profitable than Cathay. They know what they’re doing.

  40. I think the big thing about Deltas failure to make the route profitable was the lack of attempt. Launching one daily flight would of been really a waste of resources at HKG and to make the airport itself profitable they would at-least need to launch a flight to either DTW or JFK. Moving forward Delta will most likely resume operations in 2019 or 2021 (The 2 stages of the IAF opening in SEA) along side with an A350 service from DTW and/or JFK. And maybe a partnership with Cathay Pacific on most likely the same routes that Air Canada Partners on. For now though the slot allocated from HKG will go to KIX, a route where Delta can easily make a profit and most likely from there perspective have better usage of the slot all together. For Delta passengers well they can transfer through ICN or just jump ship to AA or UA all together, though this does mean their partnership with Korean will be strengthened from the start.

  41. Asia is not part of Deltas business plan. The have pulled out of Bangkok, Taipei Guam Saipan and Palau, with Manila and Singapore soon to follow. The routes flown since the forties by Northwest were deemed not profitable. The arrogance of the boys from Atlanta basically got them shown the door in all of Asia.

  42. @ Roberto : “will go to KIX, a route where Delta can easily make a profit” ??

    UA/NH and JL/AA are both in US-Japan JVs and each barely sustain one route, sometimes at less than daily frequency.

    If KIX profits are such a “leisurely walk in the park”, DL/NW didn’t have to be re-launching SEA-KIX … for the 3rd time.

  43. The biggest problem with Seattle (and Portland decades ago) as an Asia hub is simply its size as a metro area of around 4 million people. The Bay Area is twice as populous and is also the global center of the highly lucrative tech industry, which has tons of ties to Asia. Greater LA is over four times as populous as Seattle. And both California regions have way more people of Asian ancestry than Seattle (the Bay Area is 23% Asian; the Seattle area is 11%). There’s a reason why SFO and LAX work better as Asian hubs.

  44. Tired old 767’s that are great for the bottom line but are junk for pax ex (see 787 cabin altitude and humidity difference on long haul flights). Hard to keep up with the other two legacy carriers and their 787’s.

    Pretty soon DL and their JV will mean most flights in the Pacific to ICN and to AMS/CDG in Europe and JV feed from there. Just ask DL pilots, they are highly annoyed over it.

  45. I’m a SEA-based DL medallion FF who has been impressed with DL’s efforts to build an international hub over the years, both to Asia as well as to Europe. My company has factories in both Hong Kong and Paris, so direct flights are incredibly valuable when you’re traveling 100,000 miles a year for work. Yes, there are better soft products and connecting hubs/options, but sometimes it’s nice just to have one flight across the pond vs. several.

    As for whether Delta “really tried”, there are factors that were outside of its control and factors that were – and both contributed to this. First, there’s just too much capacity coming on line for direct service to Hong Kong from the US and Canada West Coast. It’s not Delta’s fault that HNA group is aggressively (and most likely unwisely) adding capacity from LAX and YVR. Delta also has to compete with Singapore’s 5th Freedom routes from SFO, and Cathay’s 2-3 daily services from LAX, SFO and YVR. Next, there’s UA’s daily SFO and AA’s LAX flight, and it’s a tough market. Finally, there’s all the other one-stop connections from SEA (and other cities that would connect through SEA) on JAL, ANA, EVA, Asiana, AC, Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Xiamen, China Airlines and HNA. It’s a key business market, yes, but it’s a brutally tough one.

    As for what Delta could control, well, their track record of stubbornness and pride is well documented. They’re 10 years behind AA and UA in their NE Asia Joint Ventures because they couldn’t recognize the potential (and very willing) partner in Korean (which was already larger in the US than either Japanese carrier). Seattle was a vastly under-served market, but their embrace was primarily to make use of their arguably too large fleet of B763ERs. Those aircraft can reach China, Korea and Japan, but they have cargo weight restrictions for a good part of the year (reducing profitability). Rejecting the 787 outright because of other Boeing disputes was unwise because that aircraft was literally thought-out and designed with the Seattle market in mind. ANA, VA, Xiamen and Hainan have added service because of the 787, not in spite of it. As for the A350, yes, that would be great! But Delta has held steadfast that Seattle keep the older siblings’ hand-me-down A330 and 767 aircraft. No Delta One suites or Premium Economy for Seattle – that’s just for Detroit. You know, the city recognized for it’s global economic heavy hitting powerhouses….of Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing…oh.

    Still. I’m happy that Delta recognized the Seattle opportunity before American did, even if they’re (by a long shot) not perfect. Cutting HKG is both sensible in the face of cut throat competition and systematic of an airline often being too prideful in their other successes, and neither introspective or reflective of their still obvious shortcomings.

  46. @henry LAX: Comparatively to HKG Delta may find this route more profitable and will allow Delta to use a smaller 767 jet

    “If KIX profits are such a “leisurely walk in the park”, DL/NW didn’t have to be re-launching SEA-KIX … for the 3rd time.” 9/11, Fuel Prices, Recession, Non fuel efficient aircraft, and a lack of a true asian gateway on a west coast. But this time it should be easier and Delta will be able to use a smaller 767 on the route which may allow for better aircraft utilisation on to eastbound flight or on other flights in Japan.

    COMPARATIVELY to HKG this will be an easier route to maintain and once Delta is ready they will re-enter the market…. its just a matter of time or aircraft availability. You never know in 2019 we may say an A350 SEA-HKG with the new IAF

  47. What amazes me is this is the Asian Century. Yes, London and Paris are profitable, but it’s shocking that Delta simply doesn’t serve Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Taipei, and now Hong Kong.It also barely has a presence in Singapore and Manila. Meanwhile, it is cutting Tokyo. It doesn’t even fly New York-Tokyo.

  48. The SEA to HKG timing is not that customer and connection friendly. Arriving in hkg after 8pm and leaving hkg at 11 am ish is not good for any connecting customers. The AA lax hkg routed work better. The aircraft is on the ground for too long in Hkg too. I flew to hkg from California and pretty much wasted two “days”.

  49. @Roberto : what are you talking about ? when DL last cancelled SEA-KIX in Nov 2013, it was also flown by a 763.

    In terms of “true asian gateway”, i don’t know if SEA has moved much since 2013 other than adding ICN. HND, HKG, TPE all came and gone, and now KIX restarting. Other than Xiamen Air’s SEA-SZX that doesn’t have synergy with any part of their route network, SEA also has been largely spared the massive capacity dumping to tertiary airports in China for the sake of holding on slot authorities that has plagued the likes of YVR SFO LAX.

    just purely from an anecdotal and high-level observation of the market dynamics, i feel that what DL needs to make SEA-HKG successful the next time around isn’t an upgauge to 359, but more along the lines of a downgauge to planes DL didn’t order, like 338 or 788.

  50. I fly that route for business regularly, and I can’t recall a flight that wasn’t full. There is substantial demand for the flight, so I would not be surprised if Cathay were to take the route. I know many folks who shuttle to Vancouver for the Cathay flight even now.

  51. Be honest, if Cathay wants to commencing Seattle, I think Vancouver must be have to cut one flight due to the 3rd flight is not profitable as well….

  52. *henry LAX – it has nothing to do with O&D traffic. It has everything to do with yield and the contribution the route is making to the overall network. HKG is a low yield market; one of the reasons why CX is not doing well. Filling up a plane on consolidator tickets does not lead to the significant profits necessary to make the route worthwhile. Even when NW had the Narita hub and NRT-HKG service, the passenger yield was relatively poor. The revenue was largely made up in cargo but that was when cargo was actually profitable. Given their earlier decisions to dehub Narita with no opportunity to build a hub at Haneda, Delta was right to pull down their Asia network. With the changes made in the Asian aviation market over the past 10 years, what worked for NW at one time under far different market conditions doesn’t work today for Delta.

  53. People are beginning to see that Delta’s superiority isn’t everything that’s advertised or perceived. Turns out that Delta’s strategy in Seattle isn’t everything it hoped it might be. Turns out that Delta is having more trouble competing in the ever-growing trans-Pacific arena than United (or even American with Hong Kong).

    For the fools asking for evidence that SEA-HKG isn’t profitable, perhaps they can foolishly and stupidly also ask why Delta would quit an even remotely profitable prestige route. Duh.

    Clearly, SEA doesn’t have enough origination traffic for HKG, and clearly DL isn’t funneling enough feed from its route network to HKG. SEA has grown a lot…but it’s still no SFO or LAX. As much as SEA continues to grow, SFO and LAX are growing more. Delta and Alaska’s route networks aren’t enough to compete with the incredible origination traffic and massive feed for both UA via SFO and AA and other carriers via LAX.

    Finally, the premise of Delta’s greater operational efficiencies is shown to not be eternal or ubiquitous with this withdrawal. Delta overall may be better, but it isn’t better everywhere. And it certainly isn’t even close to better in the trans-Pacific market.

  54. A few years ago, when Delta decided to expand into Seattle, its claim was that Seattle is the closest gateway city to Asia from US. I even contemplated switching my flying to Delta.

    Sadly, Delta seems to have changed its mind. Competition from Chinese and Korean carriers have made travels to Asia cheaper than ever, to the point where Delta has decided to pull out instead of competing.

  55. A question here: When (and why) did DL/NW lose their JL partnership to AA?

    Because I’m sure that DL keeping their JL partnership (even a small Japan domestic codeshare agreement) would help them in Japan

  56. @ Gregg : “HKG is a low yield market”

    let’s all take a moment to choke on this statement ….. you know that pesky “low-yield” HKG that is on par with London New York Tokyo Shanghai Singapore in terms of financial services ….

    and there’s a crucial difference between pulling down NRT hub and surrendering. AA and UA still maintains tons of own metal TPAC flying from CONUS hubs even with JV partners at NRT/HND.

  57. @Henry LAX

    Delta initially started the route with a A332 but uogauged to a 777, why?

    I enjoyed the part when you said they haven’t really build a gateway rather than adding all of these destinations.

  58. @ chub : JAL was invited to oneworld in 2005-Q3* , so any tiny partnership that might have existed prior to that far precipitates the eventual downfall of NRT fifth freedom hubs.

    If you’re referring to the 2009/2010 DL/NW bid for JAL in bankruptcy court, they got as far as having JAL publicly announcing they’ll switch alliances in Jan’10, then miraculously by Feb’10, JAL flipped 180 and said they’ll stick with oneworld and AA (i forgot exactly what sweetener was given at last minute)

    That 2010 partnership never took effect.

    They also tried bidding for Skymark’s 2013 bankruptcy, but refused to pay the necessary costs to get Airbus’ buy-in. ANA, on the other hand, was willing to pony up the cash for 3 unwanted birds in exchange for an even more dominant presence at HND. And now ANA is definitely making lemonade out of lemons by announcing a super unique and fun NRT-HNL service that will make people want to purposely go out of their and fly NRT-HNL instead of the various HND-HNL.


  59. @Roberto : first, i said they haven’t moved their SEA-TPAC network much as a totality since the last KIX cancellation in Nov 2013, other than ICN. (sorry misspoke earlier : DL SEA-TPE never happened).

    And it’s not like they’ve done much up-gauging elsewhere. I just did a test search for 7/19, and SEA – NRT PEK PVG ICN are all on 763.

    they also announced the summer/permanent up-gauge in Sept 2017, jacking up total seat count by ~24% or so. About 9 months later today, they cancel the route altogether, with barely 4 months notice.

    i have no idea why they up-gauged in the first place, but considering they went from upgauge to complete pull out of the entire station in 9 months, I can’t exactly say it was that smart to begin with.

  60. Let us not forget Delta flew to HKG from LAX in the 90’s. Originally LAX/ANC/HKG L1011-500 (while they corrected problems with the MD11 range) and then Nonstop LAX-HKG MD 11 service. Flying into the old airport through the tall buildings was an e-ticket all by itself!

  61. This feels like the beginning of the end. Even if the end is 50 yrs down the road. The drip drip drip of the closing Asian destinations by one of the largest global airlines in the world is embarrassing. I agree with the others who stated Hong Kong is like Paris or London or Singapore. HKG has some of the most top rated hotels in the world and is an aspirational destination for many many people, so say nothing of the business traffic. If Delta is going to use KE to funnel traffic, why bother flying across any pond? Maybe they should just focus on Atlanta to Birmingham or Jacksonville instead of London, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. They have Virgin Atlantic for London, Virgin Australia for Australia, AF for Paris and KLM for Amsterdam. They have MU for Shanghai, and AeroMexico for Mexico and S. America, I say just toss out all the heavy equipment and keep the 737-900’s, a few CRJ’s and they are good to go, back to their roots. Perhaps just go back to delivering mail.

  62. @henry LAX – Gregg is right. Your lack of understanding how revenue management works in the airline industry is apparent. Just because a city is a financial hub does not necessarily make it a profitable city to serve; especially one that requires two planes to provide service more than every other day. Having spent years in revenue management at NW and DL I know which cities contribute to the network, and which ones don’t. And, unlike CX, Delta is extremely profitable. Under the current situation they are wise to cancel the HKG route. If/when market conditions change perhaps someday they’ll reopen a HKG route. Until then there are better uses for the two planes needed for their 6x weekly HKG service.

  63. For pax traveling to the US Southeast (a Delta stronghold), flying via ICN and ATL isn’t much different than via SEA and ATL. That said, the nonstop to SEA will be missed. I flew the route in February, and the plane was packed. Clearly favored by many corporates. On the one hand, would be happy to see CX move in, but that will make it more expensive to fly up front…

  64. Back in the early 1990’s…pre-Northwest merger, I use to fly Delta’s own LAX-HKG route that operated via ANC with an L-1011-500 aircraft that was most often full in both front and back.

  65. That’s sad that this is happening as I just flew it last week, and it was very radical that they upgraded the A332 to the 777, which means more comfortable seats which are half an inch wider. I also found it odd how I happen to book this one way from a smaller regional city for 35k Skymiles! Also there were many empty seats onboard that flight, I wondered how they would keep that up 6 TIMES a week!

    @Alex, pretty much correct, Delta One didn’ look comfy to my eye, it felt like more less like the cabin for the peasants..

  66. 1. I thought they used A330 to fly between Hong Kong and Seattle. That was the plane I had a few months ago. When did the change happened?

    2. Yeah, so sad Delta will not fly this route soon enough. Also, sad that they ended the HKG to NRT route as well as any flights out of Taipei. I thought they wanted to grow their presence more in Asia and it is a global city. I guess their main focus would be Mainland China, Japan, and presumably now, South Korea.

  67. Most of what needed to be said, has been.
    Delta, having taken over NWA, then proceeds to get rid of it’s network.
    We’ve seen this story before when the bean counters make these decisions.
    It never ends well.

    The JV with KE is great, but what’s happened is that DL is now forcing everything thru that KE pipe.
    If flying to SEA, ICN is still 6 hours away. Prices are higher, choices are less. Makes me, a Platinum, think about other options once again.

  68. Amazing how pathetic a network both DL and AA have to/from Asia at this point.

    Glad I live in SFO territory so that I’m not beholden to their pathetic (non) networks to Asia. UA and 20+ overseas airlines to choose from.

  69. Two things. First, one the price of flying to Hong Kong on Hainan and EVA is cheap in economy. Hainan is >$1,000 cheaper than Delta in business. There’s a connection, but I’d take that for $1,000 savings.

    Second, speaking as someone from Seattle who’s pro economic growth, I don’t have many friends on that position anymore. People here appear to be very much ready for a recession in this region. They’re very much tired of rent/property tax increases, increasing traffic and crowds.

    I’m glad Sea-Tac is still getting the new customs facility though… the current one is mostly unchanged for at least 40 years.

  70. Being a global airline doesn’t mean you need to fly to every city in the world. That’s what partners, and especially JVs, are for. Between the KE JV, the MU small stale, and less so but still Sky Team partners CZ and CI, Delta customers have countless one stop options from all over the US. Ultimately Delta isn’t focused on prestige; clearly its profit…and pretty sure their recent track record attests to this. None of us have the real numbers though to analyze it like they do.

    It does seem weird to write this article and not mention the simultaneously annoucned new MSP-ICN as well…

  71. I was on that flight back in Feb on an A330. Many seats was empty. I am sad that they are quitting this flight. I cant understand why they switched to B777 when they cant keep the A330 full.

  72. @ Geoff : sorry, only YOUR carrier had and has trouble getting yields out of HKG by not offering service that is attractive to businesses at the foreign point of sale. Scores of foreign flags have issues sending in their flagships to HKG. You’re confusing yield of THE MARKET itself with yield your own carrier can extract.

    But feel free to think JAL and ANA, both of which are in TPAC JVs and have substantial flight and corporate contract presence at ITM+KIX (and very likely larger than DL’s), are purposely neglecting a huge chunk of unfulfilled J class demand at Osaka simply waiting for DL to arrive so they can hand it over on a silver platter.

    (if you want some data, a Jan’18 article quoted a KIX airport authority rep saying 42% of KIX pax volume are on LCC services)

    ya you know people have already lost the arguments when they can’t actually argue on the merits of their product offering, and have to resort to “they’re profitable so they must be smarter”. Ryanair has higher op inc margin than DL, and WN has been consistently profitable for a much longer duration than DL. So perhaps you should follow the gospel you’re trying to preach and starting flying those airlines ?

    And it’s rather ironic that the DL fanboys insist you exclude fuel-hedge losses BOTH the first time during mark-to-market (“it’s only an account thing, no cash has been traded”) AND also exclude when the contracts settle (“the markdown already happened before”), but then conveniently ignore the fact that by and large, the recently losses of CX were fuel-hedge-loss driven.

    It’s only in the airline world where cancelling a product or service offering and paired with a drastically sub-par replacement solution is being spun as a positive …. FOR THE CONSUMER.

  73. Funny thing, frequent traveler to Hong Kong and Shanghai … and I hub out of Seattle … and I’m a Delta Diamond … you would think that when I go to book flights, I would be offered SEA->HKG direct on Delta routinely. But I wasn’t for the past 3 years. I had to call Delta directly to get that offered.

    But for the last 30 days, suddenly, I have been getting offered SEA->HKG direct online.

    In my opinion, Delta has not emphasized this route until too late. If I had been offered this route to get to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai routinely, I would have flown it. I wasn’t … and that’s delta’s fault.

    sorry Delta

  74. It’s truly odd that none on the US carriers sees an opportunity in direct (non-stop) flights to Bangkok. In the event that Thai is able to overturn the restrictions on US flights ( imposed for safety shortcomings), then they could miss the boat, as TG certainly will do a direct service.
    Surely the demand is there ( complemented by one stop to India market).

  75. It’s sad to see Delta lose HK as a destination. On the one hand I’m surprised – I’ve been on that flight before, and it seemed pretty full. On the other…well it’s fascinating to read all the comments above from the revenue management side, and understand why the fact that it’s a full flight may not matter, if it’s not a high-yield flight.

    From the demand side (which I think I understand better), I can see why it might not be a profitable route. For many reasons, including so many direct flights US to HKG nowadays (from LAX, SFO, DFW, JFK, EWR, ORD, BOS, and now IAD), a new low-cost international airline (Hong Kong Airlines), the wide range of nonstop flights US to East and SE Asia, and the fact that Cathay (with its major hub in HKG) is a relatively expensive airline, I think it makes sense to look at HKG primarily as a point-to-point destination, not a hub for further Asian travel.

    SEA – HKG is not a big point-to-point market. There IS a huge HK expat community in nearby Vancouver, which is why Cathay flies there. And people on the west coast who want to go to HK can already take multiple nonstops every day out of SF (also a large HK expat community), LA, or Vancouver.

    All of which is to say (responding to your question @Lucky), I don’t see Cathay starting service in this market.

  76. 777 upgauge coinsided with SEA-CDG switching to 777. The rotation was something like HKG-SEA-CDG-SEA-HKG with ~14 hours in HKG before turning back (which isn another problem — I would rather have westbound red-eye to HKG and have better aircraft utilization and at least some connection options out of HKG).

  77. Seriously pissed off at Delta now. I called and tweeted to Delta. Their staff hasn’t received any memo’s regarding the change in service.

    Direct flights are no longer an option at the Delta website. The longer I have to wait the mess availability there will be for alternative options.

    Have to fly through PVG which is the worst. Not only that the number if sky miles required increased for my ticket and the fees have increased.

    Not sure if it makes any sense to use an award ticket.

  78. It is indeed sad. My parents that are non English speaking had been traveling back and forth from HKG to SEA for years and struggled with the Tokyo and Seoul transits. There is simply no one to help the elderly move between gates. It was a relief to have Delta offering a direct route and I’ve been a Northwest/Delta customer for over 30 years. Flying direct on Delta was a no brainer for me but I guess they decide to compete with Asiana and Korean airlines for Seoul. They will lose money in that route being that Koreans like to fly with someone that speaks their language and offer food that is more Asian taste. Delta has lost their sense of direction and just trying out different routes. I hope that Cathay Pacific can come in very soon.

  79. The upgauge from the A332 to the B772 happened because (1) they had to divert some of their A332s to support London and Virgin Atlantic, which has been having engine problems with their 787s, and (2) the A332s often were payload-restricted (meaning empty seats or less cargo) especially during the winter when the headwinds are usually stronger. Delta’s A332s have a design range of about 6,500 miles, which is just about the distance of the route. I think they had a similar problem with DTW-PEK, but they ended upgauging the route to a A359 and it appears to be sticking, possibly because Delta has a lot more feed and less fragmented O&D to work with than they do in SEA.

  80. You’re right, Lucky. Cathay Pacific announced last week that they would start flying to Seattle in April 2019.

  81. I have been a loyal Delta flyer – close to 2 million miles, yet they have abandoned me with this decision. Looks like I will need to return to United. Delta proposed Korean Air connection thru Seoul but with an 11pm arrival time in HK and an 1 am departure time these are not realistic options. Very frustrated and unlikely to ever return to Delta after this decision.

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