Delta Air Lines' focus city strategy: spotlight on Boston & JetBlue

Premium Analysis

The US major airlines American and United have spent the past couple of years touting the inherent potential of their hubs.

United is working to shore up high yielding connections at its hubs, while American repeatedly refers to hub structure and network as a privileged set of assets. Delta, too, also promotes the strength of its hubs; but unlike its large global competitors, it has also set its sights on selected focus cities in the US that it has concluded will generate solid returns on invested assets.

Delta officially lists Raleigh-Durham and Boston Logan as focus cities. Cincinnati is also dubbed a focus city, but its status was downgraded from a hub after the merger of Delta and Northwest a decade ago.

Delta’s logic in targeting specific focus cities outside its hubs is that those markets have solid level of demand, yet remain fragmented.

Delta applied that logic to Raleigh and is now the market’s largest airline. Near the end of 2017 the airline stated that it was turning its focus to Boston; however, Boston does not have the same market fragmentation as other smaller US markets. Boston Logan is a major focus city for JetBlue, and that airline continues its quest to maintain its status as Logan’s largest operator.

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