Delta Air Lines is mulling an expansion of its Australian operation beyond Sydney, with new non-stop routes to either Melbourne or Brisbane, or both, potentially beginning in 2024.
The SkyTeam member carrier this week commenced services linking the United States to New Zealand for the first time, debuting flights between Los Angeles and Auckland. Operated by its flagship A350-900 aircraft, that city pairing will operate daily from now until March, reverting to three times weekly from April to October 2024.
Rob LeBel, Managing Director – International and Specialty Sales was onboard for the maiden service to Auckland on Monday, where he was greeted with a ‘Hongi’ – a traditional Maori greeting in New Zealand used by the Maori people.
LeBel was then in Sydney on Wednesday night to celebrate with Australian trade partners Delta’s seasonal capacity adjustment on the Los Angeles-Sydney route which includes a bump in frequency from daily to 10 weekly, effective 31 October, and then double daily from 17 December. Those flights are also operated by Delta’s Airbus A350-900s, featuring a four-class cabin configuration of Delta One suites, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+, and Main Cabin seating.
LeBel told attendees at a packed celebratory event at Hyde overlooking Circular Quay, that the US airline had been skeptical about the success of the Australian market when it first launched LAX-SYD services 14 years ago.
“Truthfully, when we came to the market back in 2009, we weren’t sure that this was going to work.”
“We’ll give it the old college try, fingers crossed, make a sign of the cross and let’s see what happens here… but we’re very proud that we’re here 14 years later,” LeBel said.
He lauded his local team and support from trade partners for the airline’s success, adding: “Let’s see where the future takes us” beyond the double-daily service, scheduled to operate until the end of March.
“We do not have plans to stop at that. We’d like to continue expansion here in the Australian market. Demand is super, super strong coming out of the US,” he said.
“We’re very, very bullish and optimistic on the Australian market moving forward.”
Speaking exclusively with LATTE, LeBel said demand on the westbound route from the US was very strong, with North Americans keen to take advantage of favourable exchange rates, at the same time ticking Australia, and now New Zealand, off their bucket lists.
Quizzed if Delta considered other Australian destinations, such as Melbourne, rather than lifting capacity on an existing route, LeBel revealed the vision is already in the pipeline for other local gateways. Delta has more A350s joining its fleet in the coming year which may present an opportunity to add flights to the Victorian capital.
But before Melbourne, Delta has the opportunity to commence flights to Brisbane, with aircraft freed up as a result of the conflict in the Middle East which has seen a number of transatlantic routes paused, potentially enabling a first-time Los Angeles-Brisbane rotation, LATTE can exclusively reveal.
Earlier this year, Delta Air Lines and Los Angeles World Airports unveiled the final major phase of the US$2.3 billion Delta Sky Way at LAX project, where Terminals 2 and 3 were consolidated into a 27-gate complex, featuring a quick airside connector between the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 3, eliminating the need to transfer between terminals.
LeBel confirmed to LATTE that a new Delta One Club at Los Angeles Airport would open in 2024. Occupying 10,000 square feet, the Delta One Club will be attached to the Delta Sky Club in Terminal 3, offering similar tarmac views of LAX. Only Delta One customers will be permitted entry, with Medallion members and other SkyTeam frequent flyers diverted into the current SkyClub.
The Delta One Club promises to provide passengers with an extra level of luxury set apart by its exclusivity.