When Southwest announced it will fly nonstop to Baltimore and Chicago when it launches Boston service in August, the stage was set for some major airline competition in New England. Within days, JetBlue jumped on the Boston-Baltimore route, setting up a head-to-head battle between low-cost heavyweights. And now, though not a single flight has been flown yet, it seems we have our first casualty of the coming fare war in Beantown: Delta.
BNET Travel reports that Delta will spike its seven daily flights between Boston and Baltimore late this summer, which is right around when Southwest and JetBlue are slated to begin flights. Coincidence? I think not. Instead, with three low-cost carriers flying the route (Southwest, JetBlue, and AirTran, which is already in place), Delta likely wants no part of the scrum.
But while it's surprising that Delta is abandoning the market already, it's not exactly a shock that it's leaving at all. As I wrote when Southwest announced its Boston routes, legacy lines are easy targets for an airline like Southwest, because its stripped-down service allows it to undercut bigger carriers' prices. That's exactly what's happening here. Sure, Delta could have offered $49 one-way fares, as Southwest and JetBlue have done, but would it make any money? Not enough, it seems, to make the route worth flying.
Boston is shaping up to be a fierce battle between JetBlue and Southwest in particular, and AirTran as well. As others have pointed out, this is one of the first times we'll see low-cost carriers compete largely with each other and not legacy lines.
Readers, if you were traveling from Boston to Baltimore, which airline would you fly? Southwest? JetBlue? AirTran? Leave a comment below with your choice. Thanks!