Flat beds are coming to DCA
Delta is stepping up its game at Washington’s National Airport, bringing competition to a transcontinental route in a big way. The limited perimeter exempt slots at the US capital’s close-in airport mean that most longer routes have no competition at all. Flights to Los Angeles are an exception there, with both American Airlines (twice daily) and Alaska Airlines (once daily) offering daily service. Delta is joining that party on 24 April 2017 and it is doing so with a 757–200 featuring the Delta One premium configuration. Lie-flat seats will be flying from DCA next spring.
The new service will operate as a daytime flight eastbound, leaving Los Angeles at 8:30am and arriving at DCA just before 5pm. The westbound flight will depart DC at 5:45pm arriving in Los Angeles at 8:30pm. One could argue that being daytime service and under 6 hours in both directions the flat-bed offering is overkill. But that doesn’t mean passengers who score the more spacious seating will appreciate it less.
The new route also requires Delta to remove one of its other beyond-perimeter flights from DCA. It chose to shift one of the two daily Salt Lake City hops to Dulles to accommodate the DCA route. That’s a route Delta has a monopoly on and one on which it typically charges higher fares nonstop. DOT data suggests that Delta sees a premium of 30% or more on the SLC route compared to what Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are bringing in on the LAX tickets. So why the change? Delta clearly wants to be the leader at LAX and continues to invest in building it up as a hub. It offers onward flights to Asia and Australia (Australia is particularly well timed for the announced schedule in both directions). And maybe that is enough to justify entering the highly competitive DC-Los Angeles market.