It is not quite a hub. Nowhere close, really. But with forty one daily flights to ten US airports planned by mid-Spring Delta Air Lines very much sees Miami as a key part of its route network. Some of the growth can be justified by the new investment in and partnership with LATAM. But not all of it.
As our new industry-leading partnership with LATAM develops, this announcement broadens our footprint in south Florida to provide our customers with better connections between the U.S. and South America. With this expansion, we are now well positioned to provide superior service and a convenient network for customers connecting between our airlines as well as for travelers going to and from South Florida.– S.V.P. Network Planning Joe Esposito
Tampa and Orlando are the first new destinations Delta will add at Miami with service launching on 4 May 2020. Each destination will see five daily flights operated on Embraer E175s by Delta’s regional partner Republic Airways. Both routes compete directly against American Airlines, though American flies the routes as mainline service. AA also flies to Orlando more frequently, with eight daily flights. Delta is adding a good chunk of capacity into these markets and the connections to and from LATAM service generally work well. But with five daily frequencies spread across the day these new flights will need local traffic to be successful.
Delta will operate the Tampa and Orlando flights almost on twin schedules. They arrive and depart from Miami no more than ten minutes apart for each of the five frequencies. And with the schedule there are some well-timed connections to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. Secondary markets like Fortaleza and Recife are less ideally timed but still possible. But the number of seats flying and the lack of true connecting banks at Miami suggest Delta expects to poach some O/D passengers on these routes from the AA operation.
By expanding service at MIA, Delta Air Lines is helping us meet the growing travel needs of our community. These new flights ensure that Miami-Dade continues to build its reputation as not only a key destination for regional travelers, but also a critical gateway to the Americas and the rest of the world for international travelers.– Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
The new flights to Raleigh-Durham will operate twice daily from 22 May, with a morning and evening schedule that could support a (long) day-trip from RDU down to Miami. The morning flight southbound is not great for onward connections; it does not connect to LATAM’s daytime trips to South America. The northbound could carry return passengers, however. Delta’s pair of E175s on that route compete against a trio of American mainline jets.
Service to Salt Lake City rounds out Delta’s additions in Miami, launching on 28 July 2020. These flights are well-timed for LATAM’s connections to Santiago and Buenos Aires and should help feed those routes nicely. That said, Delta will fly the route with a 737-800 and the total number of travelers connecting onward daily is a tiny fraction of the seats available on that aircraft. Delta will need local passengers on the route to help support the new service.
Is Miami the next Seattle?
Delta’s growth in Miami is starting slowly. Could it seek even broader expansion, leaning on the LATAM feed to help launch additional routes?
At first blush that level of expansion appears unlikely. LATAM’s ten destinations from Miami – many less than daily – focus heavily on the local market. Some additional feed could help but Atlanta is not far away and could be better suited to growth for the Latin American market. Taking advantage of its fortress hub operation would allow Delta to optimize passenger flows with higher yielding local traffic filling the Miami flights and connections moving via Atlanta.
Then again, Delta’s operations run far more reliably than American’s and Delta has some capacity to spare right now. It can afford to experiment and grow, even in a competitor’s fortress hub, to see if the market is willing to shift a little. And right now Miami appears a ripe target for such experimentation.