Delta announced on Monday that it is adding winter only nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle/Tacoma. In recent years Delta has employed a confusing strategy between whether or not Miami International (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) is the primary focus city in the region, splitting traffic between the two in a way that is odd. The very next day Delta loaded service from its Salt Lake City hub to Miami into its reservation system. This route was flown from Fort Lauderdale from 2004 to 2010 and has only sporadically been tried from MIA. On the Fort Lauderdale-Seattle route Delta will compete with Alaska Airlines which has become a massive rival of Delta’s. Alaska does not serve Miami which perhaps explains the choice of FLL for that route.
Delta’s focus was on Fort Lauderdale until the later part of the last decade when the growing JetBlue and Spirit operations at FLL undercut Delta’s fares and focus was shifted to competing with American at Miami. Since American had an entrenched “mega-hub” at MIA fares at the airport were often incredibly high driving price conscious travelers north to Fort Lauderdale. By shifting its Fort Lauderdale-Los Angeles service to Miami and much of its capacity on Fort-Lauderdale-New York JFK/LGA routes to Miami, Delta was able to drive down fares from MIA and the airport is now more-competitive with Fort Lauderdale on certain key routes.
At almost the very same time, United Airlines after its merger with Continental opted for the opposite move moving its Denver nonstops from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and adding a nonstop from FLL to San Francisco which had been long flown from Miami until it was cut in 2003. Today United only operates a handful of routes from Miami (Newark, Houston and Chicago which is flown often with regional jets) while linking Fort Lauderdale during the peak season with all of its major hubs and domestic focus cities save Washington Dulles. Delta’s move appeared to be the opposite of United’s but the Atlanta-based airlines has sent conflicting signals.
Delta’s haphazard approach to routing has been dubbed by critics the “the Delta dartboard” really applies to South Florida.
The following cities are served nonstop from BOTH FLL and MIA:
New York -LGA
New York- JFK
It is worth noting here that capacity from FLL to Atlanta (significantly in this case), Detroit and Raleigh/Durham is much higher than from MIA, while Delta has more capacity from Miami to Minneapolis/St Paul and New York-JFK. Only to New York LaGuardia is the capacity similar between the two airports. Service between MIA and Raleigh/Durham is seasonal, while from Fort Lauderdale it is year-round. Flights from FLL to Atlanta are largely either 757’s, 737-900’s or A321’s the three largest narrow bodies aircraft in Delta’s fleet. By contrast the flights from Miami to Atlanta are mostly served via the much smaller MD-88 aircraft which is generally used to serve smaller cities.
The following cities are served ONLY from Fort Lauderdale
Tallahassee (only during legislative session and gov’t subsidized)
The following cities are served ONLY from Miami
Salt Lake City (seasonal)
If Delta consolidated most of its operations at one airport or the other they could have a real product to fight either American (MIA) or JetBlue (FLL) with. Instead they’ve mixed and matched which might be actually be smart considering Delta has a large base of loyal customers and frequent flyer members in the catchment area for both airports.