Delta Air Lines is expanding the Salt Lake City airport hub for decades to come

Salt Lake City International Airport has onboarded Delta Air Lines as its long-haul hub carrier.

The city and airline signed a deal last month that will keep the company in Utah’s capital until at least mid-2044, with an option to extend the lease for another 10 years.

It’s a landmark deal that will keep the airline’s revenue flowing in Salt Lake City, give the airport the financial support it needs to pay for a 16-gate expansion of Concourse B, and Delta passengers in Utah and more broadly West offers a reliable flight connection point to the rest of the country for decades to come.

Airport Executive Director Bill Wyatt declined to comment on the deal’s completion, but spoke publicly about the deal at a Salt Lake City City Council meeting in September.

“I’m pretty sure that as long as that contract is in place, there is no lease agreement between an airport and an airline,” he told councillors.

Council approved expenditure on the gateway expansion in September. The airline signed the deal on December 8th.

The deal, Wyatt said, represents a commitment worth billions. In exchange for agreeing to the long-term relationship, he said the airport will give Delta a larger share of ancillary revenue.

“So when times are good, they do really well,” Wyatt told councillors. “If they bring more traffic to Salt Lake City, they will do better. In bad times we are protected and our debt service is paid and the bills are paid.”

SLC an important hub for Delta

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delta Air Lines signage at baggage claim at Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, October 12, 2022.

Edward Russell, editor of Skift’s Airline Weekly, said the lease extension is a validation of Salt Lake City’s importance to Delta and reassures travelers of the airline’s long-term commitment to the Beehive State.

“If they didn’t renew the lease,” Edwards said, “or if they did for, say, five years, it would be a red flag to me that maybe Salt Lake City isn’t as important to Delta as it is.” was formerly.”

And Salt Lake City is important, Russell said, because it’s Delta’s only hub connecting west-east coast passengers and one of only two hubs in the Intermountain West.

“Salt Lake City is strategically located and Delta is in a unique position as a hub carrier in Salt Lake City,” he said, “to capitalize on that and provide really good service.”

Airline industry analyst Bob Mann sees nothing surprising in Delta’s contract extension in the Utah capital. The company, he said, took a similar step in New York.

“The airline is committed to long-term stay and a high level of operations,” he wrote in an email, “committing to a lease and landing fee cash flow that allows the airport to pledge infrastructure improvements.”

Carrier has big plans

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delta Air Lines employees screen boarding passengers at Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.

So far, the airline doesn’t have much to say about its renewed commitment to travelers in Utah.

“Delta is excited about the continued growth of our key Salt Lake City hub,” a spokesman said in a statement, “and we will be announcing more in the coming weeks.”

Mayor Erin Mendenhall also welcomed the agreement.

“Salt Lake City’s strong economy, skilled workforce and welcoming culture continue to attract investments large and small from companies from around the world,” she said in a statement Thursday. “I’m thrilled that key partners like Delta are deepening their roots in our incredible capital and look forward to sharing more soon.”

Delta, which accounts for about 70% of Salt Lake City’s outbound flights, has big plans for the new airport. It pursues an on-airport training facility, giving the airline a place other than their Atlanta home to train pilots and crew members.

A timeline for this project has not yet been released, but with the expansion, Delta has dubbed its Salt Lake City hub the “Atlanta of the West.”

A key part of the airport’s growth

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ogden residents Sebastian and Kayden Jolley look at the world map while awaiting the arrival of their family at Salt Lake City International Airport on Friday, December 23, 2022.

The extension of the east end of Concourse B was anticipated but is ahead of schedule due to demand for additional gates.

The city intends to take on new debt to expand the hall. Delta’s long-term commitment will give the airport the cash it needs to pay for the $680 million project.

In 2021, airport management gave the project management team the go-ahead for preliminary architectural and engineering work for the three-story, 300,000+ square foot project.

It is the last expansion option at the airport before the construction of a completely new, third hall. The completion of Concourse B will put the airport’s total cost at approximately $6 billion.

When both halls are fully constructed, city records indicate that Delta will occupy all of Hall A and more than a third of Hall B. The first five gates of the Hall B extension are expected to open in January 2026. The remaining Gates are scheduled to debut a year later.

Four new gates are scheduled to go into operation in Hall A in May. The remaining gates are scheduled to open in November.

A central tunnel linking the two concourses is expected to be available in late 2024, sparing travelers the arduous journey to the B gates that has served as a major criticism for the airport since launch in 2020.

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism. Delta Air Lines is expanding the Salt Lake City airport hub for decades to come

Justin Scacco

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