Sea-Tac benefits from Delta-Alaska competition

A war for market share between Sea-Tac Airport’s two largest air carriers is generating new traffic for the airport as both airlines add new non-stop destinations from the airport.

Through May, statistics from the Port of Seattle show, passenger traffic at the airport has risen by some 558,000 passengers. That’s a 4.26 percent increase over the same five months last year.

That passenger traffic increase is the result in part of a battle between SeaTac-based Alaska Airlines and Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines. Between the two carriers, they added 15 new non-stop destinations from Sea-Tac to their route structures in the first five months of 2014. Delta added 10 new destinations during those months including London and Hong Kong. Alaska added five new non-stop destinations of its own including Tampa and New Orleans.

Two other airlines added two additional non-stop flights to their routes from Sea-Tac. Frontier added a non-stop flight to Cleveland, and Southwest began flying non-stop to San Diego.

The fight between Alaska and Delta is expected to continue through next year with Delta adding new flights to feed its growing repertoire of international destinations and with Alaska adding flights that formerly might have been served by Delta through one of its hubs.

Delta is making Sea-Tac its West Coast international hub with flights to Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo’s two airports in Asia and to Paris, London and Amsterdam in Europe.

Delta had previously depended on Alaska to provide feed for those flights through a code-share arrangement. That code-sharing continues, but both airlines are adding flights of their own.

Delta’s growing international presence is seen in the growth of international passengers through May, 6.93 percent. That figure is expected to grow more as the year progresses. Some of Delta’s international flights were only operating for a few weeks by the end of May.

Despite Delta’s efforts to take business from Alaska in some of its key West Coast markets, the hometown airline is retaining most of its market share.

Through the end of May, Alaska, its sister airline, Horizon Air, and its contract partner Skywest, held more than 54 percent of the business at the airport.

Delta and its contract partner, Skywest, controlled 12.24 percent of the passenger volume at the airport through May, making it the second busiest carrier at the airport. The airport’s third largest carrier, United, and the fourth largest carrier, Southwest, both lost market share.