My main claim is that your claim hasn't been backed up by any data.
Yet you readily admit that your own claims aren't either...
I took a look back through my posts, and the only statement I found where I feel I overstepped my supporting evidence is where I said not even half of DL's domestic network lost money pre-COVID. I don't have data to back that up, so apologies for making a statement of fact on that as opposed to qualifying it as an educated guess.
Everything else I "claimed" (DL was planning to be bigger than ever at SEA this summer, had been upgauging and adding routes, has been bringing the SEA hub back faster than other coastal hubs post-COVID; A220s and A330-900s are fuel efficient, etc.) is easily verified by looking at DL's historical schedules, OAG data, aircraft spec sheets, etc. In other cases I carefully worded my "claims" to indicate that they are opinion statements using phrasing such as "I expect that...", "I'd be surprised if...", etc. I wish more posters here would use that type of wording when talking about things that are educated guesses, or are otherwise not provable with public data.
So my bad for one statement I made that was indeed too bold, but I stand by the rest of my statements. I'd still love to see some data that proves DL was floundering in SEA, given the frequency with which that's proclaimed here as known fact.
flying extremely fuel-efficient aircraft in the market
You say that SEA P&L should be evaluated including the benefit of scarce, efficient, high opportunity cost aircraft that could have been used elsewhere.
However second-year employees of the very professional, skilled, objective network departments of savvy competitors like American and United, good stock analysts, and competent airline economists will point out that looking at SEA P&L that is artificially subsidized by putting all the efficient planes there is not a good way to make the most profitable decision for stockholders and employees.
They will consider the full picture instead. So if SEA looks good because it is loaded it up with all the good A-220's but some other hub got larded up with comparatively inefficient B717's as a result, they'll look at the combination of consequences of these two things, not either one alone.
This is a very
basic concept of network economics and its absence seriously undercuts your arguments.
I'm betting DL's network planners are also professional, skilled, and objective, and thus far they've demonstrated continued commitment to SEA. Maybe I'm wrong and DL could have been making way more money these past years with better network planners... but that seems relatively unlikely.
Yes, any route that is assigned a 717 likely won't make as much profit as if an A220 had been assigned to the same route, but DL still has 717s that they need to deploy somewhere in their network. We've seen DL opt to deploy the 717s largely in their fortress hubs while deploying the A220s on competitive routes out of competitor hubs like SEA and DFW. That makes a lot of sense as a way to maximize overall profits across the network.
Regarding the economics, I'd add a few considerations:
1) Since both airlines operate connecting hubs, looking at purely SEA O&D traffic growth and comparing to DL's capacity growth isn't sufficient. As one example, DL was flying increasingly larger equipment to Asia, and filling a chunk of that added capacity by boosting seats in domestic connecting markets.
It's previously been pointed out that Delta's SEA-Asia boils down to 4 routes. Saturating the SEA domestic market with 100+ flights to feed these 4 routes is a questionable decision for maximizing short term profitability.
And in a crisis, the short term is all that matters. Because if you don't survive the crisis, there is no long term.
Wait a minute... I never said all
increases in domestic capacity were to feed the Asia flights... I used that as one example of why looking at solely O&D traffic numbers when evaluating the amount of capacity added to a market would give an incomplete picture.
I understand that the short term has become immensely more important because of the crisis, but I still doubt that airlines have stopped considering the long term entirely in their planning decisions. That's affirmed by statements from both UA and AA executives about being ready to scale back up and be well-positioned when traffic returns. In constrained, strategic hubs like SEA, LAX, NYC, and BOS, I have to think DL is mindful of the long term effects of ceding gates/slots/etc. to competitors when deciding how best to minimize short term pain. If you don't survive the crisis, there's no long term. But if you survive and haven't planned for the long term, you're still in trouble.
*If* AA+AS+oneworld are successful in SEA, I do not see a scenario where DL could successfully operate a hub in SEA.
Delta could cut bait and focus TPAC elsewhere. A strategy for DL could be not having a “primary TPAC gateway.”
The US airline industry will be lucky to return to 75% of pre-recession, pre-COVID levels by 2024.
The tail doesn't wag the dog.
The foundation of a SEA hub (the "dog") is the domestic local market. Alaska serves this better than Delta, has lower costs, and has better penetration with business travelers.
The international operation at SEA (the "tail") can only grow onto a successful domestic foundation.
Alaska is holding its own against Delta in SEA. Delta has struggled to make inroads in the SEA domestic local markets against Alaska.
It will be easier for Alaska's 300-flight "dog" to grow a 4-flight "tail" of AA/oneworld flights than it will for Delta's 4-flight "tail" to grow a 150+ flight dog.
Like it or not, Alaska has a good hand in this game. Delta is smart and will be well served by being objective about this in its decisions.
Agreed that AS isn't under pressure from DL at SEA - I've never been one to claim that. I just think AS+AA doing well at SEA doesn't preclude DL from doing well at the same time.
If we apply the logic that the smaller, higher cost operation always fails, we should have seen AA pull out of ORD a long time ago. Of course Chicago is a much larger overall market than Seattle, but the UA and AA hubs there are also more than double the size of what AS and DL have at SEA (and there's no major second airport in the SEA area to compete for traffic like there is in Chicago). There's sometimes an assumption that travelers will always choose the airline that has the biggest network out of their home airport, when that's far from the only factor. Reliability, service quality, hard product, etc. all matter in addition to network breadth and price. Even since the pandemic/recession started, I've paid extra and traveled out of my way to fly DL due to their cleaning and social distancing policies.