Delta Dropping Boston-Baltimore Route

The world's largest airline cedes the market to three low-cost carriers.
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As the song goes,

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

knows when to hold them and knows when to fold them.

The world's largest carrier says it will pull out of the Boston-Baltimore market, which has been discovered by the low-fare crowd. Starting in September, the market will have service by the three largest low-cost carriers.

AirTran

(AAI)

, which has a Baltimore hub, has flown the route for nearly eight years and currently offers nine daily weekday flights.

On Aug. 16,

Southwest

(LUV) - Get Report

will begin Boston service with five daily flights to Baltimore and five to Chicago Midway.

On Sept. 9,

JetBlue

(JBLU) - Get Report

, which already serves 32 destinations from Boston, will add four daily flights to Baltimore.

One-way introductory fares will start at $49. And AirTran said last week it will offer double frequent-flier miles on the route through the end of the year.

So it's not the best place for Delta to place its aircraft.

"Delta says, 'We're out of here,' which is smart," says Avondale Partners analyst Bob McAdoo. "It shows that the new Delta won't waste its money."

By contrast, when Southwest began Baltimore service in 1993,

US Airways

(LCC)

sought to stay and fight, despite its high costs, losing millions before pulling down its Baltimore hub. Baltimore is now the fourth-busiest Southwest city, with 162 departures to 38 cities.

Delta retains its shuttle between Boston and Washington Reagan National, the preferred airport for higher-yield business fliers. However, McAdoo noted that more passengers fly Southwest between Providence and Baltimore than fly between Boston and National.