Facebook Twitter



The airline fare wars got up-close-and-personal Tuesday when Delta Air Lines announced a new set of business and leisure travel fares from Salt Lake City to 10 key West Coast destinations.

Delta's new lower fares to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Hollywood/Burbank, Oakland, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Portland and Seattle are unique to the Salt Lake market and are clearly an attempt by the Atlanta-based airline to recapture business from charter operator Morris Air Service and others."This is strictly a competitive response to a local market condition," said Fred Rollins, Delta's district director of marketing. "This is not something we could do systemwide, but given the competitive situation here, it's something we need to do. I won't say it's profitable, but it is being done to protect our local passenger base and expand our local market share."

The new fares program begins Tuesday and will continue indefinitely, said Rollins. It is being kicked off in a major advertising campaign, including a three-page ad in Tuesday's Deseret News.

The fares are available on any flight to any of the 10 cities and are relatively simple as airline fares go. Ticket prices are $84 each way with 14-day advance purchase and a Saturday night stay ($168 round trip, with round-trip purchase required), or $129 each way with no advance purchase or minimum stay restrictions ($268 round trip, round-trip purchase required).

In addition, Delta's Frequent Flyer program will offer double the base mileage credit until Dec. 18 for any flight between Salt Lake City and the 10 other cities. This incentive is in addition to Delta's current "Better Bonus" program, which rewards Frequent Flyers with a free round-trip domestic coach ticket for every eight segments flown by Dec. 18.

Rollins would not say that Delta's new fares specifically target Morris Air Service, which, since its inception eight years ago, now fills 40,000 seats a week in its various charter flights.

"It is in competition to anyone who flies out of here, including Morris Air," he said. "We are trying to be competitive. We want to compete aggressively for every passenger. We have to protect the investment we have in Utah."

June Morris, chief executive officer of Morris Air, noted that even with the new fares, her company's fares will remain 25 percent to 30 percent lower than Delta's.

"We feel that we fill a niche in the market by offering these extremely low fares and that, more than cutting into (Delta's) business, we really create new business," she said. "We will continue doing that as well as offering our specials."

She said the new Delta fares "will probably be a real coup for the business traveler because they are paying higher fares. But we feel there is a place for Delta and us as well."

Morris contracts with Sierra Pacific and Ryan airlines for aircraft and crews. It has applied for a certificate to become a scheduled carrier and expects to make the transition by the end of next month.

Rollins said that with Delta's new fares, Utah travelers to the West Coast are getting an "unbeatable package of price, service and benefits." He noted that Delta has "made a tremendous commitment to the Salt Lake area in terms of jobs and financial investment, and local support is vital to maintaining that commitment."