Delta Air Lines is the only one of the big three airlines in the United States that does not fly to Hong Kong. While United and American operate multiple daily flights, Delta withdrew from the market in 2018. That’s why.
The launch of Hong Kong services by Delta
As early as 2014, Delta Air Lines was busy building its headquarters in Seattle. Without a truly transparent gateway, Delta lags behind some of its competitors, especially United’s massive center in San Francisco. So the airline turned to Seattle and faced partner Alaska Airlines, even though Alaska does not operate long-haul international long-haul flights.
At the same time, Delta announced two transparent routes from Seattle (SEA) to Seoul (ICN) and Hong Kong (HKG). At the time, Mike Medearos, Delta’s vice president of Seattle, said:
“Offering a new service from Seattle to Seoul and Hong Kong, Delta will now offer customers service to the top five destinations in Asia. Our expanding network in Seattle, combined with investment in our aircraft, airport and community, demonstrates our commitment to becoming a leading international carrier in Seattle. “
The flights to Seoul and Hong Kong were in addition to Delta’s transparent flights to Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo. For starters, Delta Air Lines uses a 210-seater Boeing 767-300ER on flights to Seoul, while Delta flies to Hong Kong with the former 234-seater Airbus A330-200s of Northwest Airlines. Delta also flew between Detroit and Hong Kong.
End of flights to Hong Kong
Seattle was the only portal where Delta flew to Hong Kong. In late 2018, Delta announced that it would add direct flights from Seattle to Osaka-Kansai (KIX) using a Boeing 767-300ER. Relying on the airline’s partnership with Korean Air, the airline believes that this route will work well and complement the services of the carrier from Osaka to Honolulu.
However, while adding flights to Osaka, Delta also announced that it would end the Seattle service to Hong Kong instead of directing passengers there through its partner in the Korean Air joint venture. At the time, Delta was flying a Boeing 777-200ER between Seattle and Hong Kong.
Will the airline serve the route again?
Historically, Delta Air Lines has been quite conservative when it comes to launching and operating its own long-haul flights. Instead, the airline has chosen to direct passengers through its own and partner centers, where the carrier can better guarantee higher load ratios.
Even without Hong Kong, Delta still serves some of Seattle’s largest Asian markets, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. However, Hong Kong’s loss from the Delta network is worth noting.
First and foremost, United and American were far larger airlines in Hong Kong than Delta. American also has a code-sharing agreement with Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific that allows it to provide connections in the future. In fact, the longest route of the American is his flight between Hong Kong and Dallas (DFW).
Historically, United has the most extensive route map of an American airline in East Asia, as many daily flights leave many hubs aimed at cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, Chengdu, Osaka and others.
Delta, meanwhile, is lagging behind rivals as it dismantles its Tokyo-Narita center, inherited from its merger with Northwest Airlines. It should be noted that Delta has an unusually strong market position in Tokyo-Haneda, where the airline has no major partner.
As for whether Delta will return to Hong Kong if it can’t get flights to work in the best of times, it probably won’t in the next few years as the airline recovers from the worst of times. But 2025 or so has come, and when the airline can return to building its international route network, it may be able to use its position in Seattle with a new flight to Hong Kong. However, one hiccup may be that soon after Delta cut flights to Seattle, Cathay Pacific announced plans to fly to Seattle from Hong Kong.
Do you think Delta should return to Hong Kong? Let us know in the comments!