Turf War: Delta Retaliates in Minneapolis with 7 Routes Against Sun Country

Delta Air Lines is turning up the heat in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as it seeks to reassert its dominant position in the market.

Over the weekend, the airline added a number of new and resumed routes for summer 2023, giving local and connecting travelers plenty of destinations to enjoy next year.

Expanded service includes the following seven routes from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) to:

  • Burlington International Airport (BTV) in Vermont.
  • Colorado Springs Airport (COS).
  • Great Falls International Airport (GTF) in Montana.
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) in Wyoming.
  • Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) in Nevada.
  • Richmond International Airport (RIC) in Virginia.
  • Del Valle International Airport (HRL) near Harlingen, Texas.

These flights will be operated by a combination of Delta’s mainline and SkyWest Airlines, a Delta Connection affiliate.

Delta’s new and resumed MSP routes. COURTESY CIRIO

While Delta’s expansion is notable in terms of the number of additional MSP flights by summer 2023, it also strengthens Delta’s leading market share in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, where something of a fortress center has historically operated.

That leadership position has recently been challenged by MSP’s hometown ultra-low-cost carrier, Sun Country Airlines.

While Sun Country may not compete head-to-head with all of Delta’s MSP routes, it appears to enjoy the competition.

In mid-November, Sun Country unveiled 15 MSP summer routes as it seeks to establish itself as a lower cost alternative to Delta in the market.

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUG 27: A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 takes off from Los Angeles International Airport on August 27, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

“We’re trying to make Minneapolis a two-airline market,” Sun Country CEO Jude Bricker said at the Skift Aviation Forum in Dallas in November. “If you’re paying with your own money, you fly Sun Country. If you’re flying a corporate contract, you fly Delta.”

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In fact, two of Delta’s expanded MSP routes will compete head-to-head with MSP’s new Sun Country summer routes. This includes service to Colorado Springs and Richmond.

Delta is no stranger to a turf war. In recent years, the airline has vigorously defended its position in key hubs against new entrants and expanding incumbents.

Earlier this month, the airline announced a new route from Detroit to Reykjavik. This new seasonal service was introduced just days after Icelandair revealed plans to connect the two cities, and Delta’s service will now start three days before Icelandair’s.

But perhaps the best example of Delta defending a hub is in Seattle.


In the early 2010s, Delta had a strong relationship with Alaska Airlines, Seattle’s local carrier. The link included a strong codeshare and frequent flyer alliance. However, by mid-decade, the partnership fell apart as Delta moved to build its own hub in Seattle, ultimately competing head-to-head with Alaska on many of its most lucrative routes.

The partnership finally ended in 2017 amid an escalating turf battle for Seattle. Since then, Delta has been in growth mode, boosting its Seattle hub with new routes while also rethinking many elements of the travel experience, including a sleek new Sky Club.

And now, the airline may be reverting to a familiar strategy at MSP, where it will boost service there to keep up the pressure on Sun Country.