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Delta Bets Big on Global Growth

Delta Air Lines (DAL - Get Report) announced 15 new international routes Wednesday, making a bet that its suddenly vast global network will enhance its ability to take advantage of promising markets.

Wasting no time following its merger with Northwest, Delta said three of the flights will originate from its hubs and go to the Northwest hub at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

Senior Vice President Glen Hauenstein told reporters during a news conference that Delta is "always adding new things that have high potential, and we are taking out the bottom performers."

The new flights will begin next summer with a mix of 767-400s taken from domestic service, newly delivered 777LRs, and a few planes taken from discontinued international routes.

Delta also announced a 14.5% capacity increase between its four hubs and Northwest's three hubs, saying the increased connectivity will allow for more changes down the line. "The first thing is to make sure conduits are open for connecting traffic," Hauenstein said.

Additionally, Delta unveiled plans for eight new flights to Africa. Delta is the only U.S. carrier in Africa, the largest trans-Atlantic carrier and, following the merger, the largest U.S. carrier to Asia, eclipsing UAL (UAUA) unit United.

In touting the merger, executives said frequently that a major advantage was the ability to funnel Delta traffic through Northwest's Tokyo hub. On Wednesday, Delta said it will add Tokyo flights from Atlanta, New York's Kennedy Airport and Salt Lake City.

The single New York flight means "we take ourselves from not being an Asian player in New York to being the No. 1 Asian carrier," Hauenstein said. Atlanta will get a second Tokyo flight. Also, Delta will add a Tokyo-Ho Chi Minh City flight, taking advantage of Northwest's rights to fly routes directly from Tokyo.

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