Delta Air Lines is a monstrous legacy air carrier with hundreds of flights to hundreds of cities worldwide, but with Las Vegas just another of its destinations, most people have never gotten overly excited about its presence here.
But McCarran International Airport’s No. 2 commercial carrier is creating some buzz for Nevada by producing a 31-page special section on us in the June issue of its in-flight magazine, Sky. Economic development experts are thrilled with the coverage because the story goes beyond entertainment and tourism. An estimated five million people will see the feature based on Delta passenger projections.
“Profile: Nevada” tells the story of the state’s efforts to diversify its economy in a package of features, photos and interviews in a magazine that will be in the seat back pockets on every Delta plane. The spread has a short Q&A with Gov. Brian Sandoval as well as Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, and a “native and newcomer” piece with Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, as the native and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, as the newcomer. Breakout features on the arts, the city’s new crop of celebrity chefs, the city’s emerging health care industry, UNLV, UNR, the casino industry’s philanthropic efforts and a road trip to Reno and Lake Tahoe are also included.
The main story in the package includes comments from Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who leads both the Tourism and Economic Development commissions; Mike Skaggs, director of the state’s Economic Development Department; Somer Hollingsworth, president and CEO of the Nevada Development Authority; Maureen Peckman, chief emerging business officer for Cleveland Clinic Nevada; Charlie Geocaris, director of the Nevada Film Office; Tom Fair, vice president of renewable energy for NV Energy and Stephen Wells, president of the Desert Research Institute.
Like its legacy carrier brethren—United (merging with Continental), American and US Airways—Delta connects Las Vegas to the world through hub airports to which it is fiercely loyal. In Delta’s case, that means getting to and from your destination requires one- or two-stop flights through Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cincinnati, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport or Memphis. Delta also has a few point-to-point flights between Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale, FL, and Boston that are holdovers from Delta’s discount subsidiary experiment called Song, an airline-within-an-airline that used a lime-green color scheme and leather seats with entertainment systems hooked into Dish Network in its aircraft. Delta jettisoned Song in 2006, but the Fort Lauderdale and Boston routes live on for Las Vegas.
Delta has 37 flights a day through McCarran, not counting SkyWest Airlines’ commuter flights that operate as Delta Connection. Last year, it brought more than four million passengers to our city.
About a hundred guests at a reception at the Cosmopolitan’s Comme Ça restaurant celebrated the release of the Sky article last month. Although everybody was in a pretty good mood about the unquestionably favorable publicity, no one wanted to discuss the proverbial elephant in the room: After talking the talk about Nevada, is Delta Air Lines willing to walk the walk?
After its merger with Northwest Airlines announced in 2008, Delta solidified its position as a global aviation powerhouse with international hubs in Tokyo, Paris and Amsterdam. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s ambition is to have 30 percent of its visitors coming from other countries by 2021. Imagine what Delta could do for Nevada and vice versa if the airline were to start nonstop flights between those three international hubs and Las Vegas.
Northwest Airlines actually did that at one time, offering two nonstop flights a week between Tokyo and McCarran in June 1998 until Japan Airlines began competing on the route four months later and took most of the market share. Since then, most of the McCarran-LVCVA air route prospecting team’s efforts have focused on enticing foreign carriers to fly here instead of US carriers that have their loyalty to their domestic hubs.
Delta thinks highly enough of Nevada to devote an estimated $1.5 million worth of publicity to it in its magazine. It can make a greater (and lasting) impression by walking the walk and dedicating some international lift to the market.