Delta announced that they will offer nonstop service between Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) and Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS) beginning March 9, 2017.
The 3 hour flight will be operated by Delta Connection partner, GoJet, using CRJ-900 aircraft with 76 seats – 12 in First Class, 12 in Economy Comfort and 52 in Economy Class.
For those of you unfamiliar with GoJet:
The airline received its initial Air Carrier Operating Certificate in September 2005 and began scheduled passenger services on October 4, 2005 with a United Express flight from Cincinnati, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois. By the end of 2009, GoJet took delivery of their 25th CRJ-700 aircraft.
But not to worry – it’ll be as if you’re boarding a Delta flight – DL is notoriously strict in maintaining their interiors, catering and service regiment when it comes to their contracted regional flying so you can expect all the amenities of any other Delta flight.
Yes, it’s not ideal that the flight is being operated by the infamous CRJ – an aircraft with very low headroom, cramped cabin width and tendency to not take turbulence very well (it feels enhanced rather than reduced – stark comparison to their competitor Embraer aircraft). But if you did have to be on a CRJ, the -900 series is the one to be on. Newest on the market, it features more seats which means more award availability, DL has 12 seats in First which is impressive for a regional aircraft (more than what’s on offer on United and American mainline A319s – 8). They even have Economy Comfort on such a small plane and also feature Wifi, DL’s newest seats, mood lighting and the ability to serve warm meals (other CRJs don’t have ovens in the galley). So really it’s the best of a not ideal situation…we can’t complain!
And don’t be surprised if this route is upgraded to a Delta mainline aircraft at some point in the not so distant future – we see 737s and A320s on the horizon.
Delta is clearly seeing tons of growth in the Raleigh area – they currently operate 68 flights daily from RDU to 20 destinations, and they’ll be opening the expansion to the existing lounge in November.
In the inverse, Austin is a notably smaller market for Delta – Raleigh-Durham will be Delta’s 7th nonstop destination from Austin, complementing the existing service to Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-Kennedy and Salt Lake City.
That said, as Austin continues to grow into a vibrant city full of culture (Austin City Lights, anyone?) and an increasingly important tech and business hub due to Texas’ favorable business laws, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is just the beginning of Delta’s expansion into the city. It is also a young city with favorable purchasing power which is always a good combination and demographic that companies love to court – and airlines are no exception to this.
Just take a moment to remember that prior to 2015, the only international flights out of the city were flights (some seasonal) to Canada and Mexico, mostly operated by regional aircraft. Austin now boasts a non-stop service to London Heathrow via British Airways – the flight started as a 787 but was then quickly upgraded to a 777-200 due to strong demand and forward bookings.
Times – they’re a changing.
Back to the new Delta service, the flights are currently available for booking, departing RDU at 8:30 AM or leaving AUS at 11:15 AM and is currently the only nonstop option between the two cities.
Given the arrival timings of the flights on either end, it’s good for the business traveler in that it allows for a full day of work on the Texan end of the flight, whereas at RDU it’s an early enough arrival to capture the connecting traffic that Delta offers to points further into the region during their 5pm-7pm rush hour bank at the airport.
Overall we think this is just the beginning of an eventual strong Delta expansion at Austin – they already have their ‘fortress’ hubs covered, and now they’re connecting secondary city pairs to Austin – always a good sign of a healthy business at any given airport. DL is indeed a bit behind the pack in this market with United and American (through their regional affiliates as well) already well entrenched at AUS. But that just means they’ll have to be even more aggressive and move in and tap into an increasingly important market.
Do you think this flight will be a success? Does Delta have a future in Austin?