Delta airlines is ending its summer seasonal service from New York JFK Malaga and Ponta Delgada next year, according to the always fascinating OAG Changes thread on airliners.net. The elimination of Ponta Delgado has been confirmed by Delta Press team to a news site in the Azores, while no official statement has been released about Malaga. Both routes were served daily in summer 2019 using Boeing 757–200 equipment. Ponta Delgada was flown with domestically configured 757s (seating 199 passengers) while Malaga had an internationally configured jet (with 168 passengers and 16 flatbed seats in business class).
Delta has served Malaga from New York JFK on and off since 2008, carrying more than 300,000 passengers between the two airports in that span. Delta most recently re-entered the market in 2015 and has flown the route every year since then. Ponta Delgada is a more recent addition, with the first flight operating in May 2018. With the move, Malaga loses its only nonstop transatlantic flight. Ponta Delgada will retain nonstop transatlantic service via flag carrier Azores Airlines, who flies nonstop to Boston (9x weekly), Toronto (6x weekly), and Montreal (1x weekly) using Airbus A321neos (and A321LRs).
Delta Cuts Service to Two Leisure Destinations
Both of these routes have been middling performers for Delta. According to data compiled using the T100 analysis tool at visualapproach.io, in summer 2018 (the last available government data) Malaga had an 84.0% load factor while Ponta Delgada came in at 75.5%. The article linked above also claims that Ponta Delgada load factors were above 80% in summer 2019. However, the challenge with both these routes is that they don’t have much in the way of high-yielding business or leisure traffic. Round trip business class fares were routinely amongst the lowest for Delta’s US-Europe network, and without any major strategic backing for the route, they make sense to be axed.
Malaga in general is a tough market for transatlantic service. While it is one of the biggest beach resorts in Europe and has the fourth busiest airport in Spain at 19 million annual passengers, it lacks the cultural amenities and tourist attractions that specifically appeal to American tourists headed to Europe. And while the beaches are really nice, they aren’t nice enough to justify the extra cost and travel time relative to Cancun, South Florida, the Caribbean, or Hawaii (if traveling from the West Coast). In that sense, Malaga has a lot in common with its fellow Spanish beach resort Palma de Mallorca, which at 29.0 million annual passengers is the 10th busiest airport in the world without nonstop service to the United States (and the only one that can conceivably be served with a narrowbody aircraft).
The move from Delta is almost countercyclical, as its two main US rivals have sharply expanded nonstop flying between the US and leisure destinations over the past couple of years. United has added nonstop service to Tahiti, Cape Town, and most recently Nice and Palermo, Italy earlier this year. American Airlines, meanwhile, has added service to destinations like Budapest, Dubrovnik, and Casablanca. Delta meanwhile has mostly grown service to existing European destinations as it has built up a third transatlantic hub in Boston.
SkyTeam Alternatives Exist for Malaga; None for Ponta Delgada
While SkyTeam passengers will lose nonstop service from New York to Malaga, they still have a reasonably convenient one stop connection through Madrid on Air Europa. The Delta nonstop from New York JFK to Madrid lands at 8:55 am, which is a long connection (5h 45m) to the Madrid-Malaga flight at 2:45 pm. The Air Europa flight from New York to Madrid is more reasonable, landing at 11:20 am (3h 25m). Ponta Delgada, meanwhile, will no longer have service from a SkyTeam carrier. In fact, it has no service from either SkyTeam or oneworld. Besides Air Azores (and sister carrier SATA Air Açores), the only other airlines that serve the airport are European low cost carriers and TAP Portugal (a member of Star Alliance).
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Ponta Delgada lacked service from all three major global alliances. In fact, Star Alliance member TAP Portugal offers nonstop service to Lisbon and Porto.