Alaska-Delta Battle in Seattle comes at the expense of United, Southwest

National media and trade magazines are paying attention to the increasing battle between Alaska Air Group (Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines) and Delta Air Lines (including its regional airline partners) in the Battle in Seattle as the latter dramatically increases its presence here, but the focus appears to be on the wrong parties.

While the headlines and stories point to the “Delta challenge” to Alaska, a review of the traffic statistics and market share data provided to us by Sea-Tac Airport yesterday show that Alaska and its regional sibling, Horizon Air, and Delta with its regional partners are growing at the expense of United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Alaska Airlines' market share at its primary hub, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, is growing despite service additions by Delta Air Lines. Delta's growth is coming at the expense of United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, whose market shares are falling. Source: Sea-Tac Airport/Port of Seattle.

Alaska Airlines’ market share at its primary hub, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, is growing despite service additions by Delta Air Lines. Delta’s growth is coming at the expense of United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, whose market shares are falling. Source: Sea-Tac Airport/Port of Seattle.

The chart above clearly illustrates Alaska’s lead over Delta (and every other airline at Sea-Tac) from 2009, before Delta began its expansion, through 2013. Alaska began this period with 48% of the Seattle market, followed by United at 12.3% and Southwest at 9.6%. Delta edged American’s 4% with a 6% share.

Since then, Alaska’s share has steadily increased to 51.6% by the end of 2013 and 54.2% through May this year. Delta’s 6% took a large leap forward in 2010, from 6% to 11.5% and it’s grown only fractionally since then to 12.6% YTD.

On the other hand, United’s share was flat in 2010 but has steadily declined since then to an 8.8% share YTD.

Southwest, which in 2005 threatened a big push in Seattle with a proposal to open an eight gate terminal at Boeing Field and abandon Sea-Tac, had a 9.6% market share in 2009 but only 7.5% YTD.

During the same period, passenger traffic at Sea-Tac grew by 11.5%. The chart below shows, however, that United and Southwest are carrying fewer passengers today than they were in 2009.

Alaska and Delta are carrying more passengers today than they were in 2009, but United and Southwest are carrying fewer. Delta's growth is coming at the expense of UA and WN. Source: Sea-Tac International Airport/Port of Seattle.

Alaska and Delta are carrying more passengers today than they were in 2009, but United and Southwest are carrying fewer. Delta’s growth is coming at the expense of UA and WN. Source: Sea-Tac International Airport/Port of Seattle.

  •  Alaska Airlines carried 2.9 million more passengers in 2013 than in 2009, to almost 18m.
  • Delta more than doubled its passengers carried, to 4.25m.
  • United dropped by 500,000 to 3.4m.
  • Southwest dropped to 2.8m last year from 3.0m in 2009, after peaking in 2011 at 3.18m.
  • American (without US Airways–the two carriers merged in December last year) increased its passenger count during the period from 1.35m to 1.48m.

Analysts are viewing the impact on Alaska with some level of hand-wringing. The concern should truly be about United, which is still struggling with its Continental Airlines merger.

Southwest can hold its own.

7 Comments on “Alaska-Delta Battle in Seattle comes at the expense of United, Southwest

  1. I can appreciate the desire to come up with a unique angle on this story but United and Southwest is really out in left field The real story is about Alaska and Delta even if it is well plowed ground. If you are looking for a unique angle, it is why the Obama administration, which isn’t exactly business friendly, is sitting around idly as Delta and Rick Anderson wage war on Alaska. I wonder if it has anything to do with Delta’s high paid lobbyists? Rick Anderson paid lip service to all the virtues of consolidation when he was trying to get the NW/DL deal approved by the government. Now we see the real game plan . . . pricing power, record profits and the takeover of the hubs of smaller carriers.

  2. At least have the respect to get Richard Anderson’s name correct. Its Richard not rick

  3. Isn’t the Horizon Air entity gone?

    I do think Siri is right and Obama should step in and stop this war on Ak Airlines (as well as the war on Christmas but that’s another story)

    After all he campaigned on that very promise.

    All tongue in cheek aside, the point is that consolidation is creating monsters that will lead to far less competition and that is valid.

    And Delta has a miserable record od dropping the Alaska market like a rock at the slightest shimmer so i wish them the very worst.

    • Horizon lives on. It’s planes have been rebranded Alaska, then a small sticker, Operated by Horizon Air.

  4. Interesting. Seems odd, keep it or drop it. Having flown them I can’t think of it as brand loyalty. The get there, sometimes on time and sometimes not (not a frequent flyer so a small subset of the overall) , the Q400s are awfully cramped.

    Flew a Horizon branded 737 to Boise years back, I think they had as many seats in it as a 747. Whole new meaning to the term cattle car. I am short enough I usually do ok, but that one had me unhappy and had to move my wife to the aisle so she could get her longer legs unbent and her knees caps out of her chin.

    Ak is flying the Q400s between ANC and FAI now, economics make sense but that was a jet route early on (707 ex Pan Am at one point)
    Good old days going fast.

  5. It’s hard to take the article seriously when it can’t even figure out that Delta’s growth in 2010 was only merger related. 2009 Delta data should have Northwest flights included. It paints a different picture when this vital information is included. Plus most of Delta’s growth hasn’t even started yet.

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