Delta Announces Boston to Dublin Flights: What’s the incentive?

Last week, Delta Air Lines broke the news that it’s slated to begin service between Boston Logan and Dublin. These seasonal flights will be operated by the carrier’s Boeing 757-200 aircraft.

This addition is the latest in a long line of intercontinental coups that Logan has bagged in recent years. Prior to 2012, the airport was primarily known as simply being an access point to other continents, as it only possessed nine destinations in Europe*. Since then, however, Boston has transformed into a true international gateway in the last four years with a number of new European and Asian routes. Here’s a brief recap of the destinations added, along with the airlines that serve those destinations:

2012

  • Tokyo – Japan Airlines

2014

  • Beijing – Hainan Airlines
  • Dubai – Emirates
  • Istanbul – Turkish Airlines

2015

  • Hong Kong – Cathay Pacific
  • Shanghai – Hainan Airlines
  • Tel Aviv – El Al

2016

  • Copenhagen – Norwegian Air Shuttle, Scandinavian Airlines
  • Doha – Qatar Airways
  • Dusseldorf – airberlin
  • Lisbon – TAP Portugal
  • London Gatwick – Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Manchester, UK – Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Oslo – Norwegian Air Shuttle

That’s 13 new intercontinental destinations, a figure which is even more staggering considering Logan had nine European destinations prior to 2012 – so a 250% increase in destinations.* It should be noted that the five largest European markets – London, Paris, Dublin, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam – all had non stop flights before 2012, so it wasn’t like Logan had a dearth of intercontinental options. However, it is impressive that Massport has been able to bring in so many new carries and establish an AsiaPac presence that – cameos from Korean and El Al aside – didn’t exist.

If you read the various aviation forums, you’ll know that most people don’t really consider Boston to be a Delta “hub.” Their skepticism isn’t off-base, either, as Delta isn’t even the major carrier at the airport (that honor belongs to jetBlue). Moreover, as a major U.S. airline, Delta has an interest in acquiring traffic between Boston and its major transatlantic O+D markets: London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin. And while it has a significant presence in the first three cities listed, BOS-DUB is dominated by Aer Lingus, which has two daily flights between the U.S. and Ireland.

Is this a power move by Delta? Yes and no.

It certainly helps the carrier augment its position as a hub in Boston, and it also solidifies its position as the dominant U.S.-based carrier between Boston and Europe. And while such a designation isn’t really under threat, as the only other U.S. airline to fly between Boston and Europe is American and its seasonal 757 to Paris, Delta will now serve four European destinations from Boston.

That said, even with Delta entering this market, Aer Lingus will still have the majority of market share, both due to brand loyalty and capacity as Aer Lingus operates the Airbus A330, which is significantly larger than the Boeing 757s that Delta will fly on the route. Additionally, BOS-DUB doesn’t have the same number of passengers as BOS-LHR or BOS-CDG. Yet by establishing seasonal service on a smaller aircraft than the Boeing 767s it flies to London and Paris or the Airbus A330 it flies to Amsterdam**, Delta has a low-risk “in” to a market that has traditionally posted very good load factors. So why not give it a shot?

Of course, there are a number of elements that factor into an airline’s decision to launch a route. Even so, this one seems like a no-brainer.

* Including countries in continental Europe, as well as the British Isles. This does not include remote European locations such as Iceland and Portugal’s Azores.

** Yes, the featured image is a Delta Airbus A330, but that was the only free stock image I could find.