Delta Extends Global Reach

It will add 14 new routes from Kennedy Airport to four continents next summer.
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Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

will continue its industry-leading international expansion, adding 14 new routes from New York's Kennedy Airport to four continents next summer.

The new flights mean Delta's international capacity will reach about 40% of its total in 2008, up from around 20% in 2005 and 34% in 2006.

International expansion "has gone far beyond our wildest expectations," said Executive Vice President Glen Hauenstein, at a press conference. "

This year we launched about the same number of markets, and all were profitable from day one."

The destinations for next year include Amman and Tel Aviv in the Middle East; African cities Cairo, Dakar, Lagos, Nairobi and, pending approval, Cape Town; as well as five cities in Latin America and two in Europe. Nairobi and Cape Town service would be via Dakar. Delta will connect "New York to places it has not been connected by a U.S. flag carrier," said CEO Richard Anderson.

Additionally, the carrier was awarded an Atlanta to Shanghai route on Tuesday and will begin service in March.

In general, Delta is breaking the industry mold by adding underserved destinations, said Hauenstein, while competitors follow "the lemming theory," adding traditional destinations so that "everybody flies to Brussels." In reality, he said, "the real value is in going to places that are difficult to get to," eliminating the need for trips requiring multiple connections.

For instance, he said, a trip from Indianapolis to Cape Town typically requires two connections, circuitous routing, high costs and two days of travel.

Delta accounts for about 35% to 40% of Kennedy's traffic. By June 2008, it will offer 204 Kennedy departures to 93 destinations.

Besides adding routes, Delta says it will take steps to relieve congestion at the New York airport, including reducing departures by 6% during peak periods. The carrier will eliminate its use of smaller, turboprop aircraft at JFK, allowing it to increase capacity by 20% with just 11 more daily departures. This year, 12 Delta Connection turboprops accounted for 50 daily departures.

Hauenstein said congestion "is a 12-week-a-year issue

that starts in June and ends in September." He said airlines should follow Delta's lead in voluntarily cutting schedules, in order to avoid an imposed solution to the problem of summertime schedule increases and thunderstorms.

"Capping flights is not in the best long-term interest of this city," he said. "If we have to impose caps, we want to make sure it is equitable distribution of that cap."

The announcement comes a week after the Federal Aviation Administration asked airlines for their 2008 summer schedules at Kennedy and Newark airports, saying it wants to work with carriers to relieve congestion. Commercial operations at Kennedy have increased 27% since 2000 and 44% since 2004, the agency says. Two- and three-hour delays at peak hours have been common.

Delta also said it is working with airport officials on upgrades to its terminal.

AMR's

(AMR)

American just opened a $1.3 billion terminal, while

JetBlue

(JBLU) - Get Report

will begin operating a futuristic $740 million terminal next fall.

"It's a high priority to work through terminal issues and provide satisfactory facilities," Delta said.