by Michael Lowrey
Sometimes the airline business gets a bit juvenile. This is one of those cases. Recall that Delta Air Lines is building up its focus city operation at RDU and recently announced it would start RDU-Newark (EWR) flights come November. (A focus city is a market in which an airline aims to meet local demand but does really offer much in the way of connections.) Newark is a major hub for United while Delta is weak there. It seems that United objected to Delta’s new route from Raleigh/Durham as excessively encroaching on its turf and, in a tit-for-tat move, decided to send Delta a message by starting three-a-day RDU – New York LaGuardia (LGA) flights come late October. LaGuardia is a Delta hub where United is weak.
Do I expect United’s RDU-LGA route to last? Not really. I’m not even sure it will start, as LaGuardia is slot restricted. Unless United has three sets of LaGuardia slots sitting around that it isn’t using, it will have to cut its offerings from existing markets to start the Raleigh flights. United probably hopes that Delta gets the message and drops its planned RDU – Newark flights and so that it doesn’t have to actually fly RDU-LaGuardia. We’ll see how this all plays out in the coming months.