Is there any risk for Detroit’s DTW being “de-hubbed” one day with new hubs and focus cities?

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Skyteam paint on a Delta jet in DTW

Yesterday Chris wrote: Delta Officially Crowns Boston (BOS) a Hub; Names Several “Focus Cities”. Some of the info was brand new news, some was out but not so clearly stated by Delta. In the comments section of the post reader Bobby J asked me for my thoughts on this topic:

“I can’t help but think with Delta building out their BOS and SEA hubs that it’s only a matter of time before DTW loses its status as a hub (it’s already started playing second fiddle in the Midwest to MSP). “

I think it is a fair question because nothing is “sacred” if you will to Delta. Just ask those in Memphis MEM or Cincinnati CVG (now again a focus city) that once were powerhouse Delta / Northwest hubs. Reading an old June 6th 2013 post is quite interesting today. So is it possible Detroit’s DTW will one day suffer the same fate?

I doubt it (for now and a long time to come). Here is why. posted early this year that “Detroit Metropolitan Airport ends 2018 with an increase of half a million passengers” and that is after being modestly up the year before as well. While I have not deep dived into takeoffs and landings etc. it does seem that traffic is at least holding year after year at similar levels.

Now all of those numbers are not all Delta. WOW airlines was part of that 2018 increase and they are now defunct. Sure not a major impact but an impact nonetheless on numbers and numbers matter for an airport year after year (again, just ask MEM and CVG).

Let’s not forget that Delta has been upgrading the Delta Sky Clubs in DTW and expect much more in the future. After seeing what is possible with the simply stunning opening of the Austin AUS Sky Club it would be grand to see an amazing new club in DTW one day.

The amazing A350 launch flight that I was on was out of DTW and that is still the base for the jet (DTW as the home for the 747 in the past).

While it is really sad that Virgin Atlantic no longer flies to/from DTW, they have expanded flights with other Skyteam partners AeroMexico and Air France.

CLEAR security (amazing btw and a must have) was quickly brought to DTW and works very well either with or without TSA PreCheck (better with).

René offered a ride from gate to gate in DTW

There are very few cities Delta has Porsche special service folks to run you from gate to gate as an elite. This screams DTW is a HUB for Delta.

Inside the main Delta A terminal itself they have added a ton of new restaurants and refreshed any number of bits inside the concourse.

Bottom line is this Bobby, at least to me, DTW is doing very well and is in no risk of being downgraded by Delta. Could that change one day? Sure, but I think that day is a very long way off. Agree? – René



  1. I think it’s far more likely that SLC is dehubbed, AA, UA and WN have massive chicago hubs and Delta needs something to compete with that. DTW is their answer.

  2. With the Korean Air joint venture, the fantastic new T2 at ICN, and adding more flights at Haneda, I think you can add NRT (Tokyo Narita) to the list of jilted Delta hubs. I agree that DTW seems safe for now even though Delta is a very fickle partner. DTW Terminals A, B, and C are wonderful facilities. Delta needs a hub to fill the gap in the middle of the country. Unless it plans to re hub Cincinnati or Memphis, DTW seems to be the best option for filling that role.

  3. DTW is the best large airport in the US. By far. Not even close. It also hosts many international flights for Delta. It sits in a geographically advantageous area of the country as well. No chance.

  4. I think it makes most sense to view population by distribution as opposed to what cities look like the best hub choices by map. Also I would be very surprised to see SLC dehubbed. A lot of money is being spent on the new facility. I would think detroit remains safe. If anything JFK stands to lose the most from Boston. But I think delta is trying to hit jetblue where it makes its money. That is boston. I think this single move is going to put very significant pressure on jetblue. I really don’t see too many opportunities for Delta to add any more spoke type hubs. I think their future is the megahubs and more focus on important cities with more point to point flying from them.

  5. I like to connect at MSP over DTW because DTW is boring. However, DTW seems to be a much bigger business city. I have never found a need to fly to MSP for business but I have for DTW.

  6. @derek. You named the key reason why it’s extremely unlikely for DTW or even MSP to be dehubbed. Both have solid O&D traffic AND are sufficiently large metro areas (MSP 3+M, DTW, 4+M) whereas MEM 1.3M and CVG just over 2M and served more as connecting hubs. At CVG’s low point a few years ago CMH had more passengers!

  7. Delta could use another southern midwestern hub, less susceptible to winter weather problems. I never understood why Delta pulled out of Dallas.

  8. @derek: Not sure what type of business you are in but you saying you have no reason to come to MSP for business but you go to DTW does not mean much. Just FYI, although DTW metro area has over 1MM more people than MSP metro, Minneapolis metro area hosts the HQ of 26 Fortune 1000 companies while Detroit metro area hosts only 17.

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