We’re starting to get some data that suggests Delta’s strategy of shifting capacity to trans-Atlantic routes may not hold up during the downturn: The airline released its February traffic figures, and the trans-Atlantic flights are ugly. Very, very ugly.
Stripping out the Northwest operations, Delta’s trans-Atlantic load factor (roughly the percent of seats filled) in February was 60.7%, down 6.6% from last year. However, they had grown the available seat miles in that market by 9.1%. These routes make up about 2/3 of all international traffic for the airline, and about 1/4 of all available seat miles.
Certainly, the busy summer season won’t look like that (one hopes), but it’s going to be a very rough few months getting to there (which is why you can fly to Europe for less than $400 all-in through May). But even those very low fares don’t appear to be stimulating demand.
The worst part? I’m not sure where else they can turn. The focus on trans-Atlantic made sense before the world fell apart, but that won’t recover for a while. Northwest’s Asian operations look great by comparison, but how long will that last? And can you really throw more capacity at that? (Answer: No. No you can’t.) They’re getting hammered in every direction.
Anyone have any ideas what to do?