The battle for New York is heating up. America’s two largest airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) are waging a running battle for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, in an effort to win market share in the country’s largest aviation market. More than 100 million people move through New York airports each year, and there is a heavy concentration of high-fare business travelers, making this a critical market for the legacy carriers.
While no carrier is likely to win supremacy in this highly competitive market, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) is well-positioned to pick up market share over time. Delta’s slot swap with US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC), which was completed last year, gives it the largest market share at LaGuardia Airport, which is the most convenient airport for many New Yorkers. The airline is also expanding at JFK, the region’s largest airport. Most importantly, Delta has the best reputation for customer service among the legacy carriers, which gives high-paying business travelers a good reason to choose Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL).
A war of words
Two weeks ago, United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Terminal C hub at Newark Airport, which is just outside New York City. The company highlighted upcoming improvements to its Newark facilities and its position as the largest airline in the New York area. United offers more than 400 flights per day from Newark Airport to more than 150 destinations worldwide. United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) also boasted that it offers more flat-bed seats, premium economy seats, and live TV-equipped aircraft than any other airline.
On May 24 — later that same week — Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) took center stage with the grand opening of its new Terminal 4 international hub at JFK Airport. The new facility offers modern amenities and is a big improvement over the outdated Terminal 3 that it replaces. When the project is fully completed in 2015, all Delta flights at JFK will depart from Terminal 4, allowing faster connections for passengers.
On the same day, United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) attempted to steal Delta’s thunder by announcing that from now on, all United long-haul international flights from the New York area would have flat-bed seats and personal on-demand audio-video systems at every seat in the premium cabins.
Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) struck back last week with the beginning of nonstop service between Newark Airport — United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL)’s home turf — and Paris. The service takes advantage of Delta’s joint venture with Air France, which offers a large connecting network in Paris. Delta now serves Paris from both JFK and Newark, allowing it to serve customers regardless of which airport they prefer.
Delta has an edge
United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL)’s major asset in the battle for New York is its large hub operation at Newark Airport. Due to slot restrictions at all three major New York airports, it’s very difficult for airlines to grow in New York. United can therefore offer more destinations from New York and more connecting opportunities for customers traveling between the rest of the U.S. and international destinations.