Delta chief executive Ed Bastian last year promised Boston business leaders that his airline would retake all of Logan Airport’s Terminal A.
A bold statement. But he meant it. Now, we know how and when Delta will pull it off.
The company unveiled ambitious plans on Monday to fulfill the pledge its chief executive made, plans that will make Logan the airline’s fastest-growing airport in 2019.
Delta’s expanded Boston itinerary includes new direct service to four US airports: Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Reagan National, and Cleveland. These aren’t just once-a-day hops. Reagan gets the biggest boost, with six daily flights out of Logan. O’Hare is close behind, with five.
Delta doesn’t fly to D.C. or Chicago out of Logan today. Delta executives knew they needed flights to those markets to better serve Boston’s corporate community. (Local travelers, meanwhile, are likely to welcome the competition and the price wars it should bring.)
Delta also said it would increase the frequency of several existing flights out of Logan in the spring. But the big changes are scheduled to happen in September, when the new flights to O’Hare, Newark, and Reagan National begin. That’s because Southwest will move out of its five gates in Terminal A and relocate to Terminal B, where gates are opening up as a result of the American-US Airways merger’s shakeout.
Finally, Delta gets Terminal A to itself again. (Well, not completely: WestJet continues to sublease one gate.)
Terminal A’s relatively short history has been marked by turbulence. Massport initially issued nearly $500 million in debt on Delta’s behalf to build the shiny facility, with the promise that Delta’s gate rents would pay back bondholders. The place opened with much fanfare in 2005. But the good times didn’t last for long. Delta flew into US Bankruptcy Court later that year, as soaring fuel prices ruined its profitability. The ensuing mess prompted Delta to give up nine gates to other airlines.
In recent years, Delta has tried hard to win back Boston flyers and capitalize on the city’s booming economy. Through October, Delta remained in third place at the airport, in terms of the market share of domestic passengers (15 percent), behind American (21 percent) and long-standing Logan leader JetBlue (34 percent). But Delta has dramatically increased its number of flights: By July it was second in terms of daily trips, after JetBlue. By the time it retakes Terminal A, Delta flights will depart from Logan 144 times a day, compared with roughly 110 today.
Controlling all of Terminal A and its 21 gates brings bragging rights — a morale booster for Delta’s 1,500 Boston employees. But the milestone isn’t just symbolic. Charlie Schewe, Delta’s New England sales director, says taking over just about all of Terminal A will make it easier for Delta to manage its operations there and to promote itself within the building. Expect to see more Delta red-and-blue.
Delta also could use Logan as a bit of a relief valve for connections with international partners, such as Virgin Airlines and Korean Air, possibly moving some traffic out of clogged JFK in New York.
If things work out for the Atlanta-based airline over the next year, Delta would consistently beat American in market share at Logan. That would put Delta hot on JetBlue’s tail.
Bankruptcy once sidelined Delta’s aggressive Logan plans. Not this time.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.