Delta Air Lines, strengthened by its deep ties with Aeromexico, is relaunching nonstop service between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mexico City.
The year-round, daily flight is slated to begin June 8. It marks Delta's third announcement of a new international destination for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this year. The Atlanta-based carrier also announced plans to launch MSP-to-Seoul in 2019 and MSP-to-Shanghai in 2020.
Delta flew between its Twin Cities hub and Mexico's capital city several years ago, but didn't have enough passengers to support the route and ceased service in August 2011. Since then, Delta and Aeromexico have formed a close joint venture — with Delta owning 49 percent of the Mexico-based carrier — which expands connecting traffic in both cities and increases the route's chance of success.
The relationship between Delta and Aeromexico is about as close as a U.S. carrier and foreign airline can get, said Bob Mann, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based airline consultant.
"It's an antitrust-immune joint venture, so they can jointly set prices and schedules and that essentially allows them to operate as one airline," Mann said. "This goes a long way in giving Delta access to markets it wouldn't otherwise have."
Aeromexico is the largest airline in Latin America and Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport is the region's busiest airport. MSP passengers connect there to 41 other destinations in Mexico and Latin America, MSP officials said.
"We've heard from our Twin Cities customers that Mexico City is at the top of their most requested destinations," said Steve Sear, Delta's president of global sales, in a statement. "At the same time, it allows for more choice and options for customers in many U.S. and Canadian cities through one convenient, easy connection as well as easy connections to dozens of destinations in Mexico thanks to our partnership with Aeromexico."
About one-third of Delta's current operations are outside the U.S. and Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian would like to see that increase to about 50 percent. Bastian told the Star Tribune earlier this year that the airline was considering relaunching the MSP-to-Mexico City route.
The approximately four-hour flight will be aboard a 132-seat Airbus A319. It will depart MSP at 8:50 a.m. and leave Mexico City at 2 p.m.
"Mexico City is the most popular destination in Latin America lacking direct air service from MSP International Airport," said Brian Ryks, chief executive of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which oversees MSP, in a statement. "On average, 700 people a day travel from MSP to Mexico. This new service and the connections from Mexico City to destinations beyond will make travel between Minnesota and locations south of the border easier and more convenient."
In the early 1990s, the former Northwest Airlines, based in the Twin Cities, and Dutch carrier KLM pioneered the international joint-venture model used by airlines today. Northwest and KLM were the first to split profits and losses on all their transatlantic flights. All of the major U.S. airlines have since formed similar arrangements and alliances across the globe.