For those who fly in and out of New York airports — fasten your seat belts for one of the biggest changes in recent memory.
Delta Air Lines Inc. and US Airways Group are making major alterations to their route maps, with most of the changes effective March 25. Delta will increase the number of its flights by 60 percent and add 100 new flights through New York’s LaGuardia Airport. US Airways will reduce its service to mainly just shuttles to Boston and Washington, D.C.
What’s happening amounts to a concession of the valuable New York market by US Airways, says Seth Kaplan, managing partner of the trade journal Airline Weekly.
“It’s a big deal,” he said.
Airline experts say US Airways will be shutting its competitive, and therefore less profitable, routes and will focus on its dominant position at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.
The changes will allow some frequent flyers to better consolidate miles and avoid layovers as well as get new destinations to fly to from LaGuardia. But the overhaul could also result in fare increases on some routes because fewer carriers will be serving those routes.
Some other noticeable upgrades on the way: Wi-Fi and first-class service on jets and a $160 million renovation of Terminals C and D at LaGuardia, said Delta spokesman Joseph Perone.
A second phase of changes is scheduled to take effect on July 11.
“This is a very significant change. It is a massive number of slots changing hands, and it does remake the landscape,” said Brett Snyder, who runs the air passenger site Crankyflier.com.
“You lose one player in US Airways but you gain a stronger Delta that’s more competitive with United,”?he said.
Sorry if you’re a US Airways frequent flyer
Travelers who will be the most inconvenienced are those who are heavily
invested in US Airways’ frequent flyer program. Air travel experts say
those customers should ask Delta to give them the same status they had
earned with US Airways.
Passengers can also leave from Newark Liberty International Airport, where United has a huge presence and is part of the Star Alliance frequent flyer miles group along with US Airways.
Experts say changes make sense
Airline industry experts say the deal between US Airways and Delta makes sense for both companies.
“The route swap between Delta and US Airways will add efficiency and economy to both carriers,” said Northeastern University economist Harlan Platt. “This is especially true of Delta whose major investment at LaGuardia needs passengers if it is to make sense.”
Platt and others noted that passengers could see higher ticket prices in the markets where a single carrier, whether it be Delta or US Airways, dominates an airport. For New York business travelers like Glenn Haussman, the impending expansion by Delta is all good news. “I’m very excited,” he said.