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Delta Air Lines: Business Model, SWOT Analysis, and Competitors 2023

Inside This Article

Delta Air Lines is one of the leading players in the airline industry, known for its robust business model, exceptional service, and strong market position. In this blog article, we will delve into Delta's business model, analyzing its key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats through a comprehensive SWOT analysis. Furthermore, we will explore Delta's competitive landscape, examining its main rivals and how they might impact the company's growth and profitability in the year 2023. Join us as we uncover the intricacies of Delta Air Lines' strategic position in the aviation sector.

What You Will Learn:

  • Who owns Delta Air Lines and how the ownership structure of the company is organized.
  • The mission statement of Delta Air Lines and how it guides the company's operations and decision-making.
  • How Delta Air Lines generates revenue and the various sources of income for the company.
  • An explanation of Delta Air Lines' Business Model Canvas, including its key components and how they contribute to the company's success.
  • The major competitors of Delta Air Lines in the airline industry and how they compare in terms of market share and offerings.
  • A comprehensive SWOT analysis of Delta Air Lines, highlighting its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the business landscape.

Who owns Delta Air Lines?

Ownership structure of delta air lines.

Delta Air Lines is a publicly traded company, listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "DAL." As a result, the ownership of Delta Air Lines is distributed among a wide range of institutional and individual investors.

Institutional investors

Institutional investors play a significant role in owning shares of Delta Air Lines. These investors include mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, and other financial institutions. Some well-known institutional investors that own a stake in Delta Air Lines include The Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and State Street Corporation. These institutions often hold large positions in the company and have the ability to influence its decision-making processes.

Individual investors

Individual investors also have the opportunity to own shares of Delta Air Lines. These investors can purchase shares through brokerage accounts, retirement plans, or directly from the company. Owning shares of Delta Air Lines allows individual investors to benefit from any potential increase in the company's stock price and may also entitle them to receive dividends, if declared.

Employee ownership

Delta Air Lines has a unique employee ownership program called the "Delta Air Lines Employee Stock Purchase Plan" (ESPP). Through this program, eligible employees have the opportunity to purchase Delta Air Lines stock at a discounted price. This initiative not only fosters a sense of ownership and loyalty among employees but also aligns their interests with the success of the company.

Delta Air Lines executives

As expected, executives and members of the company's management team also own shares of Delta Air Lines. These individuals often receive stock options or restricted stock units as part of their compensation packages. By owning shares, executives have a vested interest in the company's performance and are motivated to make decisions that enhance shareholder value.

Other stakeholders

While not direct owners of Delta Air Lines, other stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, and the communities in which Delta operates, also have a significant interest in the success of the company. These stakeholders rely on Delta Air Lines for transportation services, business partnerships, and economic contributions, respectively.

In conclusion, the ownership of Delta Air Lines is diversified among a wide range of institutional and individual investors. This diverse ownership structure helps ensure a balanced representation of interests and accountability within the company.

What is the mission statement of Delta Air Lines?

Delta air lines mission statement.

Delta Air Lines is committed to providing safe, reliable, and superior travel experiences to its customers. The mission statement of Delta Air Lines encompasses the company's dedication to excellence in service, operational performance, and customer satisfaction.

Delivering Safe Travel Experiences

Safety is Delta Air Lines' top priority. The company strives to ensure the well-being of its passengers, employees, and the communities it serves. Delta Air Lines continuously invests in advanced technology, rigorous training programs, and regular maintenance to maintain the highest safety standards. By adhering to strict safety protocols and industry regulations, Delta Air Lines aims to provide travelers with peace of mind throughout their journey.

Offering Reliable Operations

Delta Air Lines understands that dependability is crucial for its customers. The company focuses on providing reliable flight schedules, minimizing delays, and efficiently managing its operations. By implementing innovative technologies and robust infrastructure, Delta Air Lines aims to enhance its operational efficiency. This commitment to reliability helps passengers plan their trips with confidence, knowing that Delta Air Lines strives to deliver a seamless travel experience.

Ensuring Superior Service

Delta Air Lines prides itself on offering exceptional customer service. The company aims to create a warm and welcoming environment for passengers, ensuring their comfort and satisfaction throughout their journey. Delta Air Lines' well-trained and friendly staff is dedicated to assisting passengers with their needs, providing personalized attention, and resolving any issues that may arise. By continuously listening to customer feedback and adapting to their evolving needs, Delta Air Lines strives to deliver superior service that exceeds expectations.

Prioritizing Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is at the core of Delta Air Lines' mission. The company values its customers' loyalty and continuously works towards enhancing their travel experience. Delta Air Lines seeks to understand its customers' preferences, anticipates their needs, and tailors its services to exceed their expectations. By providing a seamless and enjoyable travel experience, Delta Air Lines aims to create lasting connections with its customers and foster a sense of loyalty and trust.

In summary, Delta Air Lines' mission statement revolves around delivering safe, reliable, and superior travel experiences to its customers. By prioritizing safety, operational excellence, superior service, and customer satisfaction, Delta Air Lines aims to be the airline of choice for travelers worldwide.

How does Delta Air Lines make money?

Ticket sales.

The primary source of revenue for Delta Air Lines is ticket sales. As one of the largest airlines in the world, Delta operates an extensive network of domestic and international flights, catering to millions of passengers each year. The company earns revenue by selling tickets for these flights, which includes the base fare as well as additional charges such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, and in-flight services. With a wide range of ticket options, Delta targets various customer segments, including business travelers, vacationers, and frequent flyers, maximizing their revenue potential.

Frequent Flyer Program

Delta's frequent flyer program, known as SkyMiles, also contributes significantly to the company's revenue stream. SkyMiles allows passengers to earn miles based on the distance traveled and their membership status. These miles can be redeemed for free flights, upgrades, or other travel-related perks. However, Delta also generates revenue through its frequent flyer program by selling miles to partner airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and credit card companies. These partners, in turn, offer Delta's SkyMiles members additional opportunities to earn and redeem miles, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement that generates revenue for Delta.

Cargo Services

Another significant source of revenue for Delta Air Lines is its cargo services. Delta operates a dedicated cargo division called Delta Cargo, which offers a range of services to transport goods and packages across its network. From perishable items to oversized freight, Delta Cargo provides customized solutions for businesses and individuals alike. By utilizing the cargo holds of its passenger aircraft, Delta maximizes its revenue potential by earning additional income from transporting goods alongside passengers. With a global network and efficient logistics, Delta Cargo serves as a crucial revenue stream for the airline.

Ancillary Revenue

In addition to ticket sales, Delta generates revenue through various ancillary sources. These include fees for checked baggage, onboard food and beverage sales, Wi-Fi services, and in-flight entertainment options. Furthermore, Delta offers premium cabin upgrades, priority boarding, and other add-on services for an additional fee. By providing these optional extras, Delta not only enhances the passenger experience but also boosts its revenue. Ancillary revenue has become increasingly important for airlines in recent years, and Delta has been proactive in capitalizing on these opportunities to generate additional income.

Partnerships and Alliances

Delta Air Lines has established a robust network of partnerships and alliances with other airlines around the world. These strategic collaborations enable Delta to expand its reach and offer its customers a wider range of destinations. Through codeshare agreements, Delta can sell tickets on partner airlines' flights, earning a percentage of the revenue from each ticket sold. Moreover, alliances such as the SkyTeam alliance, of which Delta is a member, enable the airline to cooperate closely with other carriers, sharing resources, and jointly marketing their services. These partnerships and alliances contribute to Delta's revenue by increasing its customer base and providing access to markets it may not serve directly.

Delta Air Lines Business Model Canvas Explained

Introduction to delta air lines.

Delta Air Lines is one of the largest and most successful airlines in the world. With a rich history dating back to 1924, the company has evolved into a global leader in the aviation industry. This section of the blog post will delve into the various components of Delta's business model canvas, shedding light on the key elements that have contributed to its remarkable success.

Key Partnerships

One of the crucial aspects of Delta's business model canvas is its strategic partnerships with various stakeholders in the aviation industry. Delta has forged alliances with other airlines, such as Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Air, to expand its global network and provide customers with seamless travel options. These partnerships allow Delta to offer a wider range of destinations and increased flight frequencies, enhancing its competitive advantage in the market.

In addition to airline partnerships, Delta has also established collaborations with hotel chains, car rental companies, and travel agencies. By partnering with these organizations, Delta can offer customers comprehensive travel packages, including flights, accommodations, and ground transportation. These partnerships not only generate additional revenue streams but also enhance the overall customer experience, making Delta a preferred choice for travelers.

Key Activities

Delta's key activities revolve around providing air transportation services to passengers and cargo. The airline operates a vast fleet of aircraft, ranging from small regional jets to large wide-body planes, allowing it to serve a diverse range of routes and markets. Delta's operational activities include flight planning, aircraft maintenance, crew scheduling, and ground services, all of which are meticulously managed to ensure the highest level of safety and efficiency.

Another critical activity for Delta is its commitment to customer service. The airline invests heavily in training its employees to deliver exceptional service and create memorable experiences for passengers. From check-in procedures to in-flight amenities, Delta strives to exceed customer expectations at every touchpoint, fostering loyalty and repeat business.

Key Resources

To support its operations and customer-centric approach, Delta relies on various key resources. The most significant resource is its fleet of aircraft, which represents a substantial capital investment. Delta's fleet consists of both owned and leased aircraft, allowing flexibility in adjusting capacity to meet market demand.

Besides aircraft, Delta's key resources include its extensive route network, airport facilities, technology systems, and highly skilled workforce. The airline's route network spans across domestic and international destinations, providing connectivity to major cities around the world. Delta's airport facilities, including lounges and hubs, contribute to a seamless travel experience for passengers.

Value Proposition

Delta's value proposition is centered around offering customers a superior travel experience. The airline focuses on providing reliable and on-time flights, exceptional customer service, and a wide range of travel options. By continuously improving its operational efficiency, Delta ensures that passengers can rely on punctual departures and arrivals, minimizing travel disruptions.

Moreover, Delta differentiates itself through its commitment to customer satisfaction. The airline invests in modernizing its fleet with state-of-the-art amenities, such as comfortable seating, in-flight entertainment, and Wi-Fi connectivity. By delivering a comfortable and enjoyable travel experience, Delta creates value for its customers and builds brand loyalty.

Delta Air Lines' business model canvas highlights the company's success in the aviation industry. Through key partnerships, strategic activities, essential resources, and a compelling value proposition, Delta has positioned itself as a leading global airline. By prioritizing customer satisfaction and operational excellence, Delta continues to thrive and maintain its competitive edge in the highly competitive aviation market.

Which companies are the competitors of Delta Air Lines?

Major competitors.

Delta Air Lines, one of the largest airlines in the world, faces stiff competition from several other major airlines in both domestic and international markets. Here are some of Delta's key competitors:

1. American Airlines

As the largest airline in the world, American Airlines is a formidable rival to Delta. Both airlines operate extensive domestic and international networks, serving millions of passengers each year. American Airlines offers a similar range of services and aims to provide a seamless travel experience, making it a direct competitor to Delta Air Lines.

2. United Airlines

United Airlines is another major player in the aviation industry, providing services across the globe. With an extensive route network and a strong presence in key markets, United competes directly with Delta for passengers, especially in terms of international travel. Both airlines strive to offer competitive fares, quality service, and a wide range of destinations.

3. Southwest Airlines

Although Southwest Airlines primarily focuses on domestic flights within the United States, it poses a significant competition to Delta, particularly in terms of domestic travel. Known for its low-cost fares and unique operating model, Southwest has gained a loyal customer base. Delta competes with Southwest by offering a more comprehensive network, including international destinations, and by appealing to a broader range of travelers.

Low-Cost Carrier Competitors

Apart from major airlines, Delta Air Lines also faces competition from low-cost carriers that have gained popularity in recent years. These carriers offer cheaper fares, focusing on no-frills services, and attract budget-conscious travelers. Some notable low-cost competitors to Delta include:

1. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways operates primarily in the United States, serving numerous destinations across the country and in the Caribbean. It aims to provide low-cost travel while maintaining a high level of customer service. Delta competes with JetBlue by offering a wider range of destinations and a more extensive international network.

2. Southwest Airlines (mentioned earlier)

Southwest Airlines, in addition to being a major competitor, also falls into the low-cost carrier category. Its no-frills approach and focus on domestic travel make it a direct rival to Delta, particularly on routes within the United States.

3. Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines is known for its ultra-low-cost fares and minimalist approach to air travel. It caters to price-sensitive travelers by offering minimal amenities and charging extra for add-ons. While Delta focuses on providing a full-service experience, Spirit Airlines competes by offering significantly lower prices, often attracting budget travelers who prioritize cost over additional comforts.

In summary, Delta Air Lines competes with major airlines like American Airlines and United Airlines, as well as low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines. The competition among these airlines drives innovation, service enhancements, and competitive pricing, benefiting travelers with more choices and better experiences.

Delta Air Lines SWOT Analysis

  • Strong brand reputation: Delta Air Lines is one of the largest and most recognized airlines in the world. It has built a strong brand reputation over the years, known for its reliability, customer service, and safety.
  • Extensive route network: Delta operates a vast network of routes, connecting passengers to over 300 destinations in more than 50 countries. This extensive coverage allows the airline to serve a wide range of customers and attract both business and leisure travelers.
  • Superior operational performance: Delta has consistently maintained a high level of operational performance, with a strong focus on on-time arrivals, baggage handling, and customer satisfaction. This has helped the airline establish a competitive advantage in the industry.
  • Strong financial position: Delta has a robust financial position, with a stable revenue stream and healthy profit margins. The airline has been able to invest in new aircraft, technology, and infrastructure, ensuring its long-term sustainability and growth.
  • High operating costs: Delta faces significant operating costs, including fuel, labor, and maintenance expenses. These costs can impact the company's profitability, especially during times of economic downturn or fluctuations in fuel prices.
  • Limited presence in emerging markets: While Delta has a strong presence in many established markets, it has a relatively limited footprint in emerging markets. This lack of presence restricts the airline's access to growing passenger demand in regions with high economic growth.
  • Dependence on older aircraft: Delta still operates a significant number of older aircraft in its fleet. These older planes may require more maintenance and have higher fuel consumption, which can increase operating costs and impact the airline's overall efficiency.
  • Unionized workforce: Delta has a large unionized workforce, which can sometimes lead to labor disputes and strikes. These disruptions can result in flight cancellations, customer dissatisfaction, and financial losses for the airline.


  • Expansion into new markets: Delta has the opportunity to expand its presence in emerging markets, such as Asia and Latin America. By establishing new routes and partnerships, the airline can tap into the growing demand for air travel in these regions and increase its market share.
  • Growing demand for premium services: There is an increasing demand for premium services, such as business class and first class, particularly among high-income travelers. Delta can capitalize on this trend by enhancing its premium offerings, providing personalized experiences, and attracting a higher-paying customer base.
  • Technological advancements: The airline industry is witnessing rapid technological advancements, such as the use of artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and mobile applications. Delta can leverage these technologies to improve operational efficiency, enhance customer experience, and gain a competitive edge.
  • Sustainable aviation: As environmental concerns continue to rise, there is a growing demand for sustainable aviation practices. Delta can invest in fuel-efficient aircraft, adopt greener operational processes, and promote eco-friendly initiatives to align with the preferences of environmentally-conscious travelers.
  • Intense competition: The airline industry is highly competitive, with numerous players vying for market share. Delta faces competition from both legacy carriers and low-cost airlines, which can exert pressure on pricing and profitability.
  • Economic volatility: The airline industry is vulnerable to economic fluctuations, as air travel is often considered discretionary spending. During economic downturns, consumers may cut back on travel expenses, affecting the demand for air travel and the financial performance of airlines.
  • Regulatory challenges: The airline industry is subject to a wide range of regulations, including safety standards, security requirements, and consumer protection laws. Compliance with these regulations can be costly and time-consuming, and non-compliance can result in fines or other penalties.
  • Geopolitical uncertainties: Political instability, trade disputes, and other geopolitical factors can have a significant impact on the airline industry. Delta operates in a global market, and any disruptions caused by geopolitical uncertainties can disrupt operations, affect customer demand, and increase operational risks.

Key Takeaways

  • Delta Air Lines is a publicly traded company, meaning it is owned by shareholders who hold its stock.
  • The mission statement of Delta Air Lines is to "connect the world, creating opportunities and fostering understanding through travel."
  • Delta Air Lines generates revenue primarily through the sale of air travel tickets, as well as ancillary services such as baggage fees, in-flight purchases, and partnerships with other companies.
  • The Delta Air Lines Business Model Canvas is a strategic tool that visually represents the key components of the company's business model, including customer segments, value proposition, channels, revenue streams, and more.
  • Competitors of Delta Air Lines include other major airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, as well as international carriers like Emirates and British Airways.
  • In a SWOT analysis, Delta Air Lines' strengths may include its strong brand and extensive route network, while weaknesses may include high operating costs. Opportunities may arise from emerging markets and partnerships, while threats may stem from intense competition and economic downturns.

In conclusion, Delta Air Lines is owned by its shareholders, with the largest ownership stake held by institutional investors. The mission statement of Delta Air Lines is to "connect the world, creating opportunities, and inspiring journeys."

Delta Air Lines generates revenue through various channels, including passenger ticket sales, cargo services, and ancillary revenue from services like baggage fees and in-flight purchases. Their robust business model canvas is built on key elements such as value proposition, key resources, key activities, and customer relationships.

As for competitors, Delta Air Lines faces strong competition from other major airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. These companies consistently strive to capture market share and attract customers with competitive pricing, service quality, and route networks.

Conducting a SWOT analysis, it becomes evident that Delta Air Lines has several strengths, including a strong brand reputation, a vast global network, and a focus on customer experience. However, they also face challenges such as intense competition, fluctuating fuel prices, and potential disruptions in the industry.

Overall, Delta Air Lines has established itself as a leading player in the aviation industry, continuously adapting to market dynamics and striving to provide exceptional service to its customers. With a solid business model and a focus on innovation, Delta Air Lines is well-positioned to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the ever-evolving world of air travel.

What is a SWOT analysis for Delta Airlines?

  • Strong brand image and reputation: Delta Airlines is recognized as one of the leading airlines globally, known for its high-quality services and customer satisfaction.
  • Extensive network and global reach: Delta Airlines operates a vast network of domestic and international flights, connecting major cities worldwide.
  • Strong financial performance: Delta Airlines has consistently reported profits and maintained a strong financial position in the industry.
  • Customer loyalty and frequent flyer program: The airline has a large customer base and a well-established loyalty program, which enhances customer retention.
  • Efficient operational capabilities: Delta Airlines has a robust operational infrastructure, including advanced technology systems and streamlined processes, ensuring smooth flight operations.


  • Susceptibility to fuel price fluctuations: As an airline, Delta is vulnerable to fluctuations in fuel prices, which can impact its profitability.
  • High fixed costs: The airline industry involves significant fixed costs, including aircraft maintenance, staff salaries, and airport fees, which can affect profitability during periods of lower demand.
  • Dependence on major hubs: Delta Airlines heavily relies on its major hub airports, which can lead to operational challenges and disruptions during peak times or in the event of any issues at these hubs.
  • Limited presence in certain markets: While Delta has an extensive network, it may have limited presence or connectivity in some specific regions, limiting its market share in those areas.


  • Growing demand for air travel: The global demand for air travel continues to grow, presenting opportunities for Delta Airlines to expand its operations and increase market share.
  • Expansion into emerging markets: Delta can explore opportunities to expand its operations in emerging markets, such as Asia and Latin America, where air travel demand is rapidly increasing.
  • Strategic partnerships and alliances: Forming strategic partnerships and alliances with other airlines can offer Delta access to new markets, increased connectivity, and cost-sharing opportunities.
  • Incorporating sustainable practices: The increasing focus on sustainability and eco-friendly practices provides an opportunity for Delta Airlines to invest in cleaner technologies and improve its environmental performance.
  • Intense competition: The airline industry is highly competitive, with numerous airlines competing for market share, which can lead to pricing pressure and reduced profitability.
  • Economic downturns: During economic downturns or recessions, there is a decrease in air travel demand, which can impact Delta Airlines' financial performance.
  • Regulatory challenges: The airline industry is subject to various regulations, including safety and security measures, which can pose challenges and compliance costs for Delta.
  • Geopolitical and security risks: Political instability, terrorism threats, and global conflicts can disrupt travel patterns, negatively impacting Delta Airlines' operations and revenue.

What are weaknesses of Delta Air Lines?

Some potential weaknesses of Delta Air Lines could include:

Limited international presence: Compared to some of its competitors, Delta has a relatively smaller international network, especially in emerging markets. This could limit its growth potential and ability to tap into new revenue sources.

High operational costs: Delta faces significant operational costs, including fuel expenses and labor costs. Fluctuating fuel prices and the potential for labor disputes or strikes can impact the company's profitability.

Dependence on the US market: Delta heavily relies on the US domestic market, which exposes it to fluctuations in the US economy and any disruptions in the domestic air travel industry.

Limited brand differentiation: In a highly competitive industry, Delta may struggle to differentiate its brand from other major airlines. This could impact its ability to attract and retain customers, especially in markets where customers have a wide range of choices.

Customer service challenges: Like many airlines, Delta may face occasional challenges related to customer service, such as flight delays, cancellations, or lost baggage. These incidents can lead to dissatisfaction among customers and affect the airline's reputation.

Environmental impact: The aviation industry is under increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact. As a major airline, Delta is subject to regulations and public scrutiny related to carbon emissions and sustainability. Failure to address these concerns adequately could result in reputational damage and regulatory challenges.

What is SWOT analysis in aviation industry?

SWOT analysis in the aviation industry is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated with a particular aviation organization or project. It helps to identify internal and external factors that can impact the organization's performance and competitiveness.

Strengths: These are the internal factors that give the aviation organization a competitive advantage over others. It could include factors like a strong brand reputation, advanced technology, skilled workforce, established infrastructure, or a large fleet of aircraft.

Weaknesses: These are the internal factors that hinder the organization's performance or put it at a disadvantage. It could include factors like outdated technology, lack of skilled personnel, operational inefficiencies, high operating costs, or limited routes and destinations.

Opportunities: These are the external factors that can be advantageous to the aviation organization if properly leveraged. It could include factors like emerging markets, increasing air travel demand, new routes or destinations, technological advancements, or industry partnerships and alliances.

Threats: These are the external factors that can potentially harm the organization's performance or competitiveness. It could include factors like intense competition, economic downturns, fuel price fluctuations, regulatory changes, security threats, or environmental concerns.

By analyzing these four aspects, aviation organizations can better understand their current position and make informed decisions to capitalize on their strengths, address weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and mitigate threats. This analysis helps in formulating effective strategies for growth, improving operational efficiency, and maintaining a competitive edge in the aviation industry.

What is Delta Airlines competitive advantage?

Delta Airlines' competitive advantage lies in several key areas:

Extensive global network: Delta operates an extensive domestic and international network, serving over 300 destinations in more than 50 countries. This allows the airline to provide a wide range of travel options to customers, including convenient connections and non-stop flights.

Strong operational performance: Delta has consistently ranked among the top airlines in terms of on-time performance, baggage handling, and customer satisfaction. This reliability and operational efficiency contribute to a positive customer experience and differentiate Delta from its competitors.

Industry-leading loyalty program: Delta's SkyMiles program is considered one of the best loyalty programs in the industry. It offers a range of benefits and rewards to its frequent flyers, including free flights, upgrades, and access to exclusive lounges. This program helps Delta retain and attract customers, creating a competitive advantage.

Superior customer service: Delta places a strong emphasis on providing exceptional customer service. From friendly and helpful staff to personalized experiences, such as Delta One suites and Delta Comfort+ seating, the airline strives to make the travel experience enjoyable and memorable for its passengers.

Strong financial position: Delta has a solid financial foundation and has consistently delivered strong financial results. This stability allows the airline to invest in new technologies, modernize its fleet, and improve its services, giving it a competitive edge in the industry.

Overall, Delta Airlines' competitive advantage stems from its extensive global network, operational excellence, strong loyalty program, superior customer service, and financial strength.

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Delta Air Lines: Business Model, SWOT Analysis & Competitors 2023


  • Last edited: April 10, 2023
  • Business Models , Management

Table of Contents

In the ever-evolving and highly competitive world of commercial aviation, Delta Air Lines stands tall as one of the major players, shaping the industry landscape and transforming the way millions of passengers travel. In this blog post, we will delve deep into the intricacies of Delta Air Lines' unique business model, exploring the various strategies, alliances, and innovative approaches that have enabled the airline to not only survive but thrive in the face of economic turmoil, fierce competition, and industry-wide shifts. Join us as we embark on a fascinating journey to uncover the secret sauce that has propelled Delta Air Lines to the zenith of the aviation sector and discover how the company navigates the turbulent skies of the modern airline industry.

Delta Air Lines Business Review

Who owns delta air lines.

Delta Air Lines is a publicly traded company, meaning its ownership is distributed among numerous individual and institutional investors who hold shares of the company's stock. It was founded in 1924 by Collett E. Woolman, but since then, the ownership has been dispersed as shares have been bought and sold on stock exchanges. Major shareholders include investment firms, such as The Vanguard Group and BlackRock Inc., which hold a significant number of shares in the company. Ultimately, the ownership of Delta Air Lines lies within the hands of these shareholders who, collectively, make decisions on the company's direction through voting on various corporate matters.

What is the mission statement of Delta Air Lines?

The mission statement of Delta Air Lines is to connect the world with a focus on safety, reliability, world-class customer service, and progressive corporate responsibility. As a leader in the airline industry, Delta is committed to offering high-quality air travel experiences, fostering shareholder value, and implementing sustainable practices. Their mission highlights their dedication to the safety and security of their passengers, operational efficiency, and dynamic adaptability with a clear vision to become the most customer-centric, service-oriented, and well-run global airline.

How does Delta Air Lines make money?

Delta Air Lines, as one of the world's largest airlines, generates revenue through various streams. The primary source of income for the company comes from ticket sales, including those for international and domestic flights, business class, and economy class. Additionally, Delta Air Lines earns money through their frequent flyer program, SkyMiles, which offers loyalty rewards and partnerships with credit card companies and other businesses. Delta also derives income from their cargo services, transporting goods and merchandise across the globe. Furthermore, Delta Air Lines engages in various auxiliary services, such as in-flight food and beverage sales, baggage fees, and other in-flight amenities, which all contribute to the company's overall profit.

Delta Air Lines Business Model Canvas Explained

Delta Air Lines utilizes the business model canvas framework effectively across various aspects, including their value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners, and cost structure.

Delta Air Lines' primary value proposition lies in offering diverse flight routes while maintaining a focus on customer experience, reliable and timely services, and flexible ticketing options. The company has positioned itself as a premier airline service that caters to both business and leisure travelers, offering comfort and convenience to its passengers.

The customer segments that Delta Air Lines targets are diverse, including individual passengers, business travelers, corporate accounts, and travel agencies. In addition, the company aims to cater to various customer needs, from low-fare transport to luxurious travel experiences depending on the specific customer segment's needs.

Delta uses multiple channels to reach its customers, including digital channels like its website, mobile apps, and third-party platforms such as travel agencies, online travel agencies, and global distribution systems. These channels help the company reach a wide-ranging customer base and facilitate easy access to booking and reserving services.

Customer relationships are a crucial aspect of the Delta Air Lines business model canvas. The airline has focused on providing personalized services, offering loyalty programs like SkyMiles, and facilitating a smooth customer experience right from the booking process, in-flight service, to post-flight assistance.

The primary revenue streams for Delta Air Lines include ticket sales, cargo transportation, and a host of ancillary services like premium seat reservations, Wi-Fi access, and commission from partner airlines. The loyalty program SkyMiles also contributes to Delta's revenue through cobranded credit card agreements and selling miles to partners.

Key resources for Delta Air Lines consist of their extensive fleet of aircraft, airport infrastructure, experienced employees (including pilots, flight attendants, and ground staff), technology (both for customer-facing platforms and backend operations), and their global route network.

Delta's key activities include flight operations, fleet management, safety and security, sales and marketing, customer experience management, and maintaining relationships with key partners such as regulators, partner airlines, and technology providers. These activities ensure seamless operations and a high level of customer satisfaction.

The company relies on key partners like aircraft manufacturers, global partners (e.g., SkyTeam alliance), ground service providers, suppliers (fuel, catering, etc.), and technology providers. These strategic partnerships not only bolster the company's operations but also contribute to the consistent delivery of quality services to passengers.

Lastly, Delta Air Lines' cost structure includes expenditures on aircraft maintenance, personnel costs, fuel costs, airport fees, technology and IT, marketing, and regulatory compliance expenses. The company continually works towards optimizing its cost structure while maintaining a focus on providing value to customers.

Overall, Delta Air Lines employs a comprehensive and efficient business model canvas that allows it to offer competitive travel solutions, cater to different customer segments, and partner with crucial stakeholders, all while maintaining a focus on delivering a superior travel experience to its passengers.

Which companies are the competitors of Delta Air Lines?

Delta Air Lines, a prominent name in the aviation industry, faces stiff competition from several prominent airlines. Key competitors include American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Alaska Airlines. These airlines, like Delta, have an extensive route network, strong brand recognition, and competitive pricing strategies, making them direct rivals in the struggle for market share within the airline sector.

Delta Air Lines SWOT analysis

Delta Air Lines, a major American airline, possesses several strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that affect its overall business outlook.

Strengths: Delta Air Lines is recognized for its extensive network and hub system, operations efficiency, strong brand reputation, and on-time performance. Their commitment to customer satisfaction, innovative services, and strategic partnerships, such as their alliance with SkyTeam, contribute to their globally competitive position. The company's diversified revenue sources, which include cargo services and maintenance operations, provide them with additional financial stability.

Weaknesses: Despite its strengths, Delta Air Lines also presents several areas of concern. The company is highly reliant on the cyclical nature of the airline industry, which is vulnerable to economic fluctuations and unpredictable changes in consumer demand. Additionally, their high operating costs result from factors such as fuel prices and labor expenses. They also face difficulties in managing their technical infrastructure, which has led to disruptions in their services.

Opportunities: Delta Air Lines can seize numerous prospects for growth by focusing on emerging markets, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, they can invest in environmentally friendly initiatives, such as adopting fuel-efficient technology, to enhance their sustainability profile while reducing operating expenses. Another opportunity is enhancing their digital platforms to provide consumers with personalized services and improved customer experience.

Threats: Delta Air Lines faces intense competition from other domestic and international airlines. The susceptibility of the industry to geopolitical tensions and terrorism can significantly impact their operations, while natural disasters and pandemic events can lead to drastic declines in air travel demand. Growing concerns regarding the environment and resultant regulatory restrictions may also pose challenges to their operations.

In conclusion, Delta Air Lines possesses a strong foundation for success while balancing areas of weakness and potential threats. By capitalizing on opportunities for growth and addressing critical operational challenges, the company can retain its competitive position and enhance its longevity in an ever-changing market.

In conclusion, Delta Air Lines has expertly navigated the ever-evolving landscape of the aviation industry by implementing a multifaceted business model. While many companies struggle to remain profitable and relevant, Delta consistently distinguishes itself through strategic investments in technologies, fostering partnerships with other airlines, enhancing customer experiences, and staying committed to its sustainability agenda. By focusing on these areas, Delta Air Lines not only continues to thrive but also sets the benchmark for innovation and excellence in the industry. Future growth can be anticipated, as long as Delta remains adaptable and agile in a rapidly changing marketplace.

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Discounted Cash Flow Financial Model

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL): Business Model Canvas

Related Blogs

  • Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL): history, ownership, how it works & makes money
  • What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL).
  • What are the Porter’s Five Forces of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL).

Key Partnerships

Key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, cost structure, revenue streams, introduction.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) is a prominent player in the airline transportation industry that offers top-notch passenger travel, air cargo, and aircraft maintenance services. With advancements in technology, efficient operations, and exceptional customer service, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) has consistently been a market leader within the industry. According to a report by Statista, global revenue in the airline industry was valued at $838 billion in 2019, and it is expected to grow to $971 billion by 2025, showcasing a promising industry outlook.

  • In this detailed blog post, we will examine the business model canvas for Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) and delve into the company's operations that have allowed them to achieve success amidst a highly competitive industry.
  • We will explore the value proposition provided by Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL), its customer segments, channels, and key activities. This analysis will provide an in-depth understanding of the company's operations, marketing strategies, and how it differentiates itself from other noteworthy competitors such as American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings, Inc.
  • Read on to discover how Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) has managed to innovate and adapt to the dynamic airline transportation industry while maintaining its position as a market leader.

Let's dive into the business model canvas for Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) and examine how the company operates.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. engages in various key activities to ensure the efficient operation of its business model. These activities include:

  • Fleet Management: Delta Air Lines, Inc. manages a fleet of more than 800 aircraft, including both narrow and wide-body planes. The company engages in activities such as aircraft maintenance, upgrades, and replacements to ensure the safety and reliability of its fleet.
  • Flight Operations: Delta Air Lines, Inc. operates more than 5,000 flights daily to over 300 destinations across the globe. Key activities within this area involve the planning and management of flight schedules, crew assignments, and fuel management.
  • Customer Service: Providing high-quality customer service is a key focus for Delta Air Lines, Inc. The company engages in various activities to ensure customers have a positive experience, including in-person and online check-in, baggage handling, and onboard amenities.
  • Marketing and Sales: To attract and retain customers, Delta Air Lines, Inc. engages in various marketing and sales activities, including advertising, promotions, and loyalty programs.
  • Revenue Management: Delta Air Lines, Inc. engages in revenue management activities to optimize its pricing and inventory strategies. This includes analyzing market conditions, forecasting demand, and adjusting pricing in real-time.
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Delta Air Lines, Inc. engages in various logistics and supply chain management activities to ensure the efficient operation of its business model. This includes managing suppliers, inventory, and distribution channels.
  • Technology and Innovation: To remain competitive, Delta Air Lines, Inc. engages in various technology and innovation activities. These include the implementation of new technologies to improve operational efficiency, as well as innovative products and services that enhance the customer experience.

By engaging in these key activities, Delta Air Lines, Inc. is able to deliver a high-quality travel experience for its customers while maintaining operational efficiency and profitability.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) requires the following key resources to operate efficiently and deliver its services:

  • Human resources: Delta employs over 80,000 people, including pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, customer service representatives, and executives. The company recruits highly skilled and qualified personnel and invests in their training and development.
  • Aircraft: Delta has a fleet of over 800 aircraft, including narrow-body and wide-body jets. They are maintained and serviced by a team of experienced mechanics to ensure they meet safety standards and provide a comfortable flying experience for customers.
  • Routes and slots: Delta's route network covers over 300 destinations in over 50 countries. The company also holds valuable slots at key airports, allowing it to efficiently manage its schedules.
  • Technology: Delta relies on technology to support its operations and enhance customer experience. This includes systems for flight planning, ticketing, reservations, and baggage handling. Delta also utilizes digital technology to engage with customers and provide self-service options.
  • Financial resources: Delta has a strong financial position, with a market capitalization of over $30 billion. The company generates significant revenue from ticket sales, cargo, and ancillary services. Delta also has access to bank loans and tax incentives.
  • Partnerships and alliances: Delta has formed partnerships and alliances with other airlines, hotels, rental car companies, and travel service providers. These relationships enable Delta to expand its services, benefits, and rewards for customers.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) offers its customers a range of value propositions that set it apart from its competitors in the airline industry.

  • Reliability: Delta is committed to delivering reliable service to its customers, with an on-time arrival rate of over 85%. Its strong operational efficiency ensures that customers can trust Delta to get them to their destination on time.
  • Comfort: Delta's fleet of aircraft is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and high-quality amenities to make the travel experience as comfortable as possible for its customers. From extra legroom to in-flight entertainment, Delta's customers can enjoy a relaxing and enjoyable flight.
  • Accessibility: Delta serves over 325 destinations in more than 60 countries, making it easy for customers to travel to their desired destination. Delta also offers a variety of fare classes, from basic economy to first class, to accommodate different travel budgets.
  • Customer Service: Delta's customer service is highly regarded in the airline industry, with a dedicated team of professionals who are committed to providing exceptional service to its customers. From booking to baggage claim, Delta's customers can rely on its attentive and friendly customer service team to assist them every step of the way.

Overall, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) offers a comprehensive value proposition that focuses on reliability, comfort, accessibility, and customer service. Its commitment to these values has helped establish Delta as a leading airline and a top choice for travelers around the world.

Delta Air Lines, Inc., uses a variety of channels to create awareness, promote their products and reach their customers. Their channels can be grouped into four categories:

  • Direct Channels: These channels involve a direct connection between Delta Air Lines and its customers. Delta has a large web presence and uses its website to promote its products, offer discounts and facilitate bookings. The company also has a mobile app that allows customers to book flights, check-in, and access flight status updates. Delta also uses ticket counters, kiosks and self-service machines located in airports to provide services to its customers.
  • Indirect Channels: These channels involve partnerships with other companies to promote and sell Delta's products. Delta has partnerships with travel agents, online travel agencies, corporate booking systems, and other intermediaries to reach customers. Delta also cooperates with other airlines to expand its global reach.
  • Communication Channels: These channels are used to communicate with customers, employees and other stakeholders. Delta uses social media, email, SMS, and phone calls to inform customers of new products, services and promotions. The company also uses internal communication channels to keep employees informed and motivated.
  • Service Channels: These channels are used to deliver the core service of Delta. These channels include the company's fleet of aircraft, ground support equipment, and baggage handling systems. Delta also has a customer service call center to handle inquiries, complaints, and requests.

Delta Air Lines' multi-channel approach aims to provide customers with various options to interact with the company, book flights, and receive support. The company's direct channels, which include its website, mobile app, and airport services provide a seamless and convenient booking experience. Indirect channels, including partnerships with intermediaries, help Delta reach a wider audience, while communication channels allow the company to keep customers informed and engaged. Service channels, including Delta's fleet of aircraft and customer service call center provide a high level of service to customers.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) has a complex cost structure due to the nature of the airline industry. The following are the major cost components that make up the company’s cost structure:

  • Salaries and Wages: Delta Air Lines employs a significant number of employees, including pilots, flight attendants, ground staff, maintenance personnel, and administrative staff. The salaries and wages paid to these employees represent a considerable portion of the company's operating costs.
  • Fuel: Fuel is one of the largest expenses for Delta Air Lines. The company uses a significant amount of jet fuel to power its fleet of planes, and fluctuations in fuel prices can have a significant impact on the company's bottom line.
  • Aircraft Maintenance and Repair: Delta Air Lines must ensure that its aircraft are well-maintained to ensure safety and reliability. The company needs to invest in regular maintenance checks, repair work, and replacement of parts to keep its planes in top condition.
  • Depreciation and Amortization: Delta Air Lines owns a considerable fleet of aircraft that needs to be periodically replaced or upgraded. The company needs to account for depreciation and amortization expenses related to its assets.
  • Airport Fees: Delta Air Lines pays fees to airports for landing, parking, and other services. These fees can vary depending on the airport, and they can have a significant impact on the company's operating costs.
  • Marketing and Advertising: Delta Air Lines invests heavily in marketing and advertising to promote its brand and attract customers. This includes advertising campaigns, sponsorships, and promotions.
  • Technology: Delta Air Lines invests in technology to improve its operations and enhance customer experience. This includes software applications, website development and maintenance, and hardware and software upgrades.
  • Insurance: Delta Air Lines needs to carry insurance to protect itself against various risks, including accidents, property damage, and liability claims.
  • Distribution Costs: Delta Air Lines incurs costs associated with distributing its tickets and services through various channels, including travel agents, online booking platforms, and direct sales.

Overall, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) has a highly variable cost structure that can be affected by various factors, including fuel prices, aircraft maintenance, and marketing expenses. Managing these costs is critical to the company's success in the highly competitive airline industry.

The Business Model Canvas for Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) elucidates the key areas that the company needs to focus on to maintain its market leadership position effectively. By employing a range of strategies across value proposition, key partnerships, revenue streams, cost structure, and customer segments, Delta Air Lines has successfully competed in the airline industry.

  • Value Proposition: Delta Air Lines' value proposition is based on providing high-quality services to customers. This includes ensuring a comfortable travel experience, incorporating advanced technology and equipment, and reaching destinations on time.
  • Key Partnerships: The company has established key partnerships with various upstream suppliers, service providers, and other airlines to ensure continuity in operations and cost savings.
  • Revenue Streams: Delta Air Lines generates revenue by charging competitive prices for the services offered, which includes airline tickets, baggage fees, and other ancillary services.
  • Cost Structure: The airline company efficiently manages its costs by implementing operational strategies such as fleet optimization, fuel hedging, and workforce optimization while continuously seeking to improve efficiency.
  • Customer Segments: Delta Air Lines has identified customer segments that need the most value-addition, such as business travelers, frequent flyers, and tourists that require a comfortable and reliable mode of transportation.

Overall, Delta Air Lines has been able to remain profitable and well-positioned in the airline industry by effectively managing its cost structure, diversifying its revenue streams, and ensuring customer satisfaction. By constantly innovating, improving its services and operational strategies, and forming strategic partnerships, Delta Air Lines is well-positioned to take advantage of new market opportunities and maintain its market leadership position in the future.

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Delta Air Lines’ Business Model and Strategy Research Paper


Delta Airlines is one of the oldest American airlines that was founded in 1924 as a small aerial crop dusting operation (“About Delta” par. 1). Nowadays, it is a large global airline with more than 160 million customers using its services annually. Like many other airline companies, Delta faces the challenges caused by the changes in fuel prices, the frequency of terroristic attacks in the air or airports, and the necessity to stay competitive in the market. Any successful manager should understand the importance of a properly chosen strategy in the company and the worth of all actions taken and the decisions made.

In this report, Delta will be analyzed in terms of its strategic alignment, competitive advantage, marketing achievements, customer value, and profit propositions to clarify if its business model and current strategy are successful enough not to change it but promote its development.

Current Strategy of Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines spends much time and effort to analyze its current situation and the changes it can be promoted regarding the actual state of affairs. The latest reports of the company show that Delta, as well as other airline companies in the USA and the whole world, faces the problem caused by the changes in jet fuel prices. Even if these prices fell at the end of 2014 (“Delta Air Lines INC: Form 10-K” 4), fuel expenses remain one of the main problems for the company.

Therefore, Delta tries to focus its strategies on the improvement of the situation and the creation of control over such types of expenses. For example, the idea to own a refinery to contain fuel costs seems to be a unique strategy introduced by the company because Delta can manage its fuel costs in a variety of ways (Cederholm 10). For example, Delta’s attempts to purchase agreements and practice fuel hedging are not new, but the idea to operate a refinery makes it unique and competitive. Also, Delta is involved in numerous activities to reengineer the business model to promote high employee engagement and gracious customer service (“Richard Anderson: Chief Executive Officer” par. 2).

Strategic Alignment

The VRIO framework is the tool to be used to comprehend if the company under analysis succeeds in choosing actions, articulating its goals, and making the decisions that influence the quality of life of the company. Regarding the question of value (Frynas and Mellahi 121), Delta continues extending its reach to customers using partnerships with Alitalia and other trans-Atlantic joint ventures (“Richard Anderson: Chief Executive Officer” par.3) and developing the refinery strategy that helps to reduce fuel costs (Cederholm 10). Regarding the fact that not many companies can use the same strategies, the question of rareness gets a positive answer because the resources of Delta are competitive indeed. Besides, its activities are hard to imitate due to the way the company is organized and focused on the goals to be achieved.

Competitive Advantage

To stay competitive, Delta tries to distinguish it from its competitors. The idea to buy a refinery is one of the most powerful decisions made by the company because it helps to increase fuel supply, reduce fuel prices, and stay confident in the quality of fuel used (Cederholm 10). Cooperation and the establishment of productive relations with customers are the other aspects of the work done by the company. Delta has already implemented a flyer program with the help of which customers can get benefits and enjoy the opportunities offered. This program introduces the incentives to customers and increases their desire to travel on Delta (“Delta Air Lines INC: Form 10-K” 5). All these decisions and the abilities to combine the financial benefits, customer satisfaction, and employee motivation underline the efforts of Delta to resist the power of its main competitors that are Southwest, United, and American.

Market Achievements

The results that have been achieved by Delta show how effective and responsible the company can be. The demonstration of sustainable positive financial results, investments in healthy communities, and the protection of natural environments help to not only satisfy the legal obligations but also to provide Delta’s stakeholders that are all investors, employees, customers, and partners with clarity and confidence (“Corporate Responsibility” par.1).

Risk Activities

Delta has established a framework that aims at addressing and analyzing risks in the form of the ERM process (“Delta Corporate Responsibility Report” 13). Therefore, the company protects itself against the activities and unethical decisions that may put the company at risk. Intense competition, fuel prices, and dependence on the North American market are the main risk factors that should be considered. Besides, Delta has some problems with its reputation, and its brand and image have been considerably worsened during the last several years. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on customers and their possible contributions to the company.

Company’s Viability

Successful leadership, attention and respect to customers, and investigation of fuel price policies should help Delta achieve high results, overcome the challenges, and introduce the services that can impress people and save the company’s money.

Richard Anderson is one of the successful examples of leaders in the company. His abilities to combine his personal aviation experience with the needs of the company are impressive. When he joined the Board of Directors and became CEO, he made several changes to underline the role of customers in the company and the necessity to think about cost control (“Richard Anderson: Chief Executive Officer” par. 2).

Works Cited

About Delta n.d. Web.

Cederholm, Teresa. “ Delta’s Unique Strategy: Owning a Refinery to Contain Fuel Costs. ” Market Realist . 2014. Web.

Corporate Responsibility n.d. Web.

Delta Air Lines INC: Form 10-K (Annual Report) 2014. Web.

Delta Corporate Responsibility Report 2014. Web.

Frynas, Jedrzej, George, and Kamel Mellahi. Global Strategic Management , New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.

Richard Anderson: Chief Executive Officer n.d. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, July 23). Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy. https://ivypanda.com/essays/delta-air-lines-business-model-and-strategy/

"Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy." IvyPanda , 23 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/delta-air-lines-business-model-and-strategy/.

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy'. 23 July.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy." July 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/delta-air-lines-business-model-and-strategy/.

1. IvyPanda . "Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy." July 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/delta-air-lines-business-model-and-strategy/.


IvyPanda . "Delta Air Lines' Business Model and Strategy." July 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/delta-air-lines-business-model-and-strategy/.

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  • Overview of Porter's Five Forces

An Overview of Delta Air Lines

Industry competition, bargaining power of buyers, the threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, threat of substitutes.

  • Fundamental Analysis

Analyzing Porter's 5 Forces Model on Delta Air Lines

Discover which forces pose the biggest threat to Delta

delta airlines business model canvas

As one of the largest airline carriers in the world, Delta Air Lines faces competitive challenges and threats that can impact its performance and profitability. Investors interested in analyzing the company as a potential investment can conduct a fundamental analysis to help them gain a clear picture of Delta's financial position and its position within the airline industry. This information leads to better investing decisions since share price appreciation tends to follow sound fundamentals. The fundamental analysis starts with examining a company's financial documents, such as its financial statements , annual and quarterly reports, and stock performance.

However, the shrewdest investors will go beyond looking at Delta's financial position and will study the potential effects of external forces on the company's health. One of the most effective tools for this is Porter's Five Forces.

Overview of Porter's Five Forces Method

Porter's Five Forces is an analytical framework developed in 1979 by Harvard Business School professor, Michael E. Porter. Porter's goal was to develop a thorough system for evaluating a company's position within its industry and to consider the types of horizontal and vertical threats the company might face in the future.

Horizontal Threats and Vertical Threats

A horizontal threat is a competitive threat, such as customers switching to a substitute product or service, or a new company entering the marketplace and appropriating market share. A vertical threat is a threat along the supply chain , such as buyers or suppliers gaining bargaining power, that can put a company at a competitive disadvantage.

The Five Forces model evaluates three potential horizontal threats and two vertical threats. Industry competition, the threat of new entrants, and the threat of substitutes represent the horizontal threats. The vertical threats come from the increased bargaining power of suppliers and the increased bargaining power of buyers. Using the Five Forces framework, investors can determine the most viable threats to a company. With this information, they can evaluate whether the company has the resources and protocol in place to respond to likely challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • Porter's Five Forces is an analytical framework that helps investors evaluate a company based on its position within an industry and the kinds of horizontal and vertical threats it might face in the future.
  • A horizontal threat is a competitive threat, such as a new company entering the marketplace and gaining market share.
  • A vertical threat puts a company at a competitive disadvantage, such as buyers or suppliers gaining bargaining power.
  • In the airline industry, buyers have tremendous bargaining power because they can quickly and easily switch from one carrier to another using third-party trip-booking websites and apps.

Delta Air Lines, Inc. ( DAL ) is the oldest airline still in operation in the United States. The company was founded in 1928 and has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. From May 2020 to April 2021, Delta ranked third in domestic market share for U.S. airlines at 14.3%.  Delta's sheer size and status as a longtime leader in the airline industry have helped ensure its continued success. As of July 2021, the company's market capitalization was around $26.6 billion.

The level of competition in the airline industry is high. The big airlines essentially fly to the same places out of the same airports for about the same prices. The amenities, or lack of amenities, they offer are similar, and the seats in coach are just as cramped no matter which airline you choose. Delta's traditional rivals include United and American, but the company also faces major competition from the growing popularity of value carriers, most notably Southwest, but also JetBlue and Spirit.

The number of passengers Delta Air Lines carried in 2020.

Because the air travel experience for customers is remarkably similar no matter which airline they take, airlines are constantly threatened by the prospect of losing passengers to competitors. Delta is no exception. If a customer is planning to book a flight from Houston to Phoenix on Delta but a third-party price aggregator, such as Priceline , reveals a better deal from United, the customer can make the switch with a simple click of the mouse. Delta manages these competitive threats with extensive marketing campaigns that focus on brand awareness and the company's longstanding reputation.

Buyers have immense bargaining power over airlines because the cost and effort required to switch from one carrier to another is minimal. The emergence and raging popularity of third-party trip-booking websites and smartphone apps exacerbate this issue for the airlines. Most travelers do not contact an airline, such as Delta, directly to book a flight. They access sites or apps that compare rates across all carriers, enter their trip itineraries, and then choose the least expensive deal that accommodates their schedules.

Delta can respond to this market force by conducting market research and offering more direct flights at low prices to the destinations fliers search for most frequently on third-party platforms. Additionally, the company should strengthen relationships with credit card companies and strive to offer the best reward programs; customers are loath to switch carriers when they have accumulated what they view as "free" miles with a particular airline.

Potential new entrants to the marketplace represent a minimal threat to Delta. The barriers to entry in the airline industry are remarkably high. The operating costs are massive, and the government regulations a company must navigate are numerous and exceedingly complex. There is not a single airline founded during the 21st century that has even a 2% market share. JetBlue, founded in 1998, represents the newest airline to make a dent in the industry, and the company's market share is still less than one-third of Delta's.  

The list of airline suppliers is actually quite long. The list of airlines for suppliers to sell to, however, is short. This asymmetry places the bargaining power directly in the hands of the airlines. Bargaining power is particularly strong for Delta, given its position as the world's largest airline by passenger revenue in 2019. Put simply, Delta's suppliers have a strong incentive to keep the relationship on good terms . Delta can likely find a replacement supplier without a problem if the relationship goes bad. The supplier, by contrast, is unlikely to find another buyer capable of replacing the sales volume represented by Delta.

A substitute , as defined by the Five Forces model, is not a product or service that competes directly with the company's offerings but acts as a substitute for it. Thus, a United flight from New York to Los Angeles is not considered a substitute for a Delta flight with the same start and endpoints. Examples of substitutes are making the trip by train, car, or bus. Unless a trip is very short, such as traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, no methods of travel rate as viable substitutes for air travel. New York to Los Angeles is a 6.5-hour flight. The trip takes 41 hours by car or bus, and a train cannot get you there much faster. Until a new technology comes along that supplants air travel as the fastest and most convenient way to travel long distances, Delta faces little threat from substitute methods of travel.

Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School. " The Five Forces ."

Delta. " Corporate Stats and Facts ."

Bureau of Transportation Statistics. " Airline Domestic Market Share ."

Yahoo Finance. " Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL) ."

Delta Airlines. " 2020 Form 10-K ," Page 2.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics. " Airline Ranking 2019 ."

delta airlines business model canvas

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Delta spotlights strengthened competitive advantages and brand momentum

NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) today presents its plan for leading the air travel industry through the next phase of the recovery, powered by an intense focus on customers, the strength of its trusted consumer brand and its values-based, people-centric culture of service.

Delta Air Lines and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to nearly 370 destinations on six continents. For more information visit news.delta.com. (PRNewsFoto/Delta Air Lines)

The airline is presenting its strategic priorities at its Capital Markets Day for the investor community, hosted at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City.

"It's clear that the pandemic stress-tested the people of Delta in unprecedented ways, and our competitive advantages not only endured but were strengthened throughout the crisis," said Ed Bastian, Delta's CEO. "Delta is outperforming the industry, and our path forward to leading the next phase of the recovery is taking shape thanks to the incredible work of our 75,000 people worldwide."

During the event, senior leadership will discuss how Delta is expanding its platform to create value over the long term. Highlights from the day will include:

  • Competitive Advantages:  Delta's actions during the pandemic further strengthened its competitive advantages and enhanced its position as a trusted consumer brand.
  • Industry Leadership:  Delta is leading the industry operationally and financially by demonstrating agility, operational excellence and discipline.
  • Brand Preference:  Delta continues to elevate the customer experience through its best-in-class service and by investing across the travel ribbon, enhancing brand preference and loyalty.
  • Earnings Power:  Delta expects to deliver meaningful profitability in 2022 on its path to improved earnings power beyond pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
  • Financial Foundation:  Delta's top financial priority is restoring its financial foundation, with a focus on efficiency and cash generation to achieve investment grade metrics by 2024.

"As our profitability improves, we are focused on reducing debt and strategically investing to build on our leadership position," said Delta CFO Dan Janki. "We have a compelling strategy that we believe will allow us to exceed 2019 financial performance, deliver industry-leading margins and generate significant cash to de-lever the balance sheet over the next three years."

Delta's financial targets will be discussed in greater detail at the event, and include the following:

Financial Targets:

Additional Metrics and Assumptions:

  • 2024 operating margin in mid-teens
  • 2024 operating cash flow > $9B
  • 2024 adjusted debt / EBITDAR between 2.0x and 3.0x
  • 2024 ending liquidity between $5B and $6B
  • 2024 ROIC in the mid-teens

"As we look ahead, our priorities are strengthening our trusted consumer brand, restoring our financial performance and building a better future for our people and our planet," Bastian said. "Our ambition is to transcend the industry and create significant long-term value for our people and our owners. As reconnecting the world becomes more important than ever, we are accelerating our path to reshape and redefine air travel."

Delta also issued an investor update, raising December quarter financial guidance. The airline now expects to generate an adjusted pre-tax profit of ~$200 million in the December quarter.

Capital Markets Day will begin at 8:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and includes presentations from Bastian and Janki as well as Delta President Glen Hauenstein and President-International Alain Bellemare. It also will feature a Q&A with Bastian and Stephen J. Squeri, Chairman and CEO of American Express, in which they will discuss the growing value of the partnership between the two companies in the recovery and beyond.

Attendance in person is by invitation only. Presentation slides and a live webcast will be available on Delta's Investor Relations website at https://ir.delta.com . A replay of the event will be available shortly after the event.

About Delta

Delta Air Lines is the U.S. global airline leader in safety, innovation, reliability and customer experience. Powered by our employees around the world, Delta has for a decade led the airline industry in operational excellence while maintaining our reputation for award-winning customer service.

Today, and always, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our customers and employees. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta has moved quickly to transform the industry standard of clean to ensure a safe and comfortable travel experience for our customers and employees.

With our mission of connecting the people and cultures of the globe, Delta strives to foster understanding across a diverse world and serve as a force for social good.

Forward Looking Statements

Statements made in this press release that are not historical facts, including statements regarding our financial targets, should be considered "forward-looking statements" under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are not guarantees or promised outcomes and should not be construed as such. All forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the estimates, expectations, beliefs, intentions, projections, goals, aspirations, commitments and strategies reflected in or suggested by the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the material adverse effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on our business; the impact of incurring significant debt in response to the pandemic; failure to comply with the financial and other covenants in our financing agreements; the possible effects of accidents involving our aircraft or aircraft of our airline partners; breaches or lapses in the security of technology systems on which we rely; disruptions in our information technology infrastructure; our dependence on technology in our operations; our commercial relationships with airlines in other parts of the world and the investments we have in certain of those airlines; the effects of a significant disruption in the operations or performance of third parties on which we rely; failure to realize the full value of intangible or long-lived assets; labor issues; the effects of weather, natural disasters and seasonality on our business; the cost of aircraft fuel; the availability of aircraft fuel; failure or inability of insurance to cover a significant liability at Monroe's Trainer refinery; failure to comply with existing and future environmental regulations to which Monroe's refinery operations are subject, including costs related to compliance with renewable fuel standard regulations; our ability to retain senior management and other key employees, and to maintain our company culture; significant damage to our reputation and brand, including from exposure to significant adverse publicity; the effects of terrorist attacks, geopolitical conflict or security events; competitive conditions in the airline industry; extended interruptions or disruptions in service at major airports at which we operate or significant problems associated with types of aircraft or engines we operate; the effects of extensive government regulation we are subject to; the impact of environmental regulation, including increased regulation to reduce emissions and other risks associated with climate change, on our business; and unfavorable economic or political conditions in the markets in which we operate or volatility in currency exchange rates.

Additional information concerning risks and uncertainties that could cause differences between actual results and forward-looking statements is contained in our Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020 and our Quarterly Report for the quarterly period ended September 30, 2021. Caution should be taken not to place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements, which represent our views only as of the date of this press release, and which we undertake no obligation to update except to the extent required by law.

Non- GAAP Financial Measures

Delta sometimes uses information ("non-GAAP financial measures") that is derived from the Consolidated Financial Statements, but that is not presented in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the U.S. ("GAAP"). Under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules, non-GAAP financial measures may be considered in addition to results prepared in accordance with GAAP, but should not be considered a substitute for or superior to GAAP results.

Delta is not able to reconcile forward looking non-GAAP financial measures without unreasonable effort because the adjusting items will not be known until the end of the period and could be significant.


SOURCE Delta Air Lines

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Technology and Operations Management

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Delta Air Lines

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Why Delta Air Lines is the best domestic air line.

Delta Air Lines business model is to cater to business and professional travelers rather than compete in the price, and therefore margin, sensitive discount air line segment for the infrequent, leisure traveler.  Their operating model is to provide quality service and cater heavily to their frequent fliers with an emphasis on the business traveler over the leisure traveler.

Flight Attendants

Similar to Starbucks’ strategy of focusing on employees that are on the front line of employee interaction, Delta takes great care of their flight attendants.  A happy flight attendant leads to a great experience for a traveler which leads to loyalty and repeat customers.  Delta flight attendants are so satisfied from shared on call time, profit sharing, etc. that they continuously vote down attempts by a minority group of flight attendants, mainly previous Northwest employees, to unionize.  Delta flight attendants are the only group of flight attendants that is not unionized.  The flight attendants have so much pride in Delta that they wear the “Flying D” as a symbol of Delta pride and gift them to certain frequent fliers.  (Note: I proudly have a Flying D and wear it when I fly Delta.)


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Flying D

To balance the operating model with the business model, Delta has recently changed their frequent flier program, known as Skymiles.  No longer is Medallion status achieved only by flying a certain number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualifying Segments (MQSs), customers must now achieve a minimum spending level known as Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs).  This additional qualification has made Medallion status more exclusive which translates into an increased proportion of business travelers flying on Delta as they are less price sensitive than the occasional vacation traveler.  An increased proportion of business travelers increases the dollars per seat for Delta which flows through to the bottom line.  The remaining Medallion members also benefit from the new, more stringent system as upgrades are more likely as the pool shrinks.  There is also the added benefit of a decrease of crying babies on the plane (no one wants to hear a crying baby on a plane.  No one.  Fly Southwest if you want to hear that.)  To avoid completely alienating the hybrid business/leisure traveler and to cross-sell their co-branded American Express credit card, the MQD requirement can be waived with a minimum $25,000 spend on the credit card.  After introducing the MQD requirement in 2014, Delta executives realized the MQD requirements were too low and increased each level by $500 but maintained the credit card waiver based upon annual spend.

To cater to the business traveler population, Delta has the most flights with wifi available through GoGo internet service and has plans to have their full fleet wifi capable by the end of 2015.  While GoGo internet does require an additional fee to be paid, Delta Studio is available for Delta One (first class) and Delta Economy Comfort + (“second class”) passengers without a charge.  This approach caters mainly to the business traveler that needs to get work done while traveling but still appeals to the leisure traveler.  Other air lines are struggling to equip their aging fleets with wifi to counter this competitive advantage.

Record Profits

A combination of the superior customer service, increased focus on business travelers, combined with low oil prices has led to record profits for Delta Air Lines which is the best proof of their operating model leading to success in their business model.







Student comments on Delta Air Lines

Your loyalty for Delta radiates throughout this review! Clearly they are doing a good job of converting some of their target business travelers into true Delta loyalists.

I agree that their business model aligns with a pointed focus on business travelers, who are less price sensitive and looking for a more comfortable experience. Delta consistently rates highly for their leading percentage of on-time flights, another alluring component for business travelers which allows them to charge a premium.

My question regarding Delta would be, do they risk alienating their potential future customer pool? For non business travelers, Delta’s focus on service for business specific customers feels like they have created their own alienating social hierarchy for those outside the “circle”. Is there risk for future business travelers to be disenchanted before they become part of Delta’s target market?

It sounds like Delta’s operating and business models align perfectly: higher end service for the customer that is not price sensitive. Well put. It sounds like they really benefit from not being unionized. Maybe they can higher better attendants (fire low performing) and pay less overall. Curious if you know how they continue to avoid unionization while the others haven’t?

The reason they have avoided unionization is that the majority of flight attendants don’t want it. They have better pay and hours under their current structure and life would actually get worse for them if they were to unionize. I know some people at the flight operations center and a bunch of flight attendants that are also sources for this post, but I wasn’t sure how it would be perceived.

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Five reasons why delta airlines outperforms its three largest competitors.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Delta Air Lines president Ed Bastian, broadcast journalist Lu ... [+] Parker, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and recording artist John Legend attend a Delta Corporate Reception. Delta stays more focused on business travel than its largest competitors.

The U.S. Airline business continues to evolve, with low-cost carriers gaining presence and large airlines repositioning themselves for a post-pandemic demand level. The four largest airlines in the U.S. — American, Delta, Southwest, and United — each hold a roughly 20% market share and yet each has unique strengths and weaknesses. Even if lower-cost carriers gain share over the next few years with more emphasis on leisure traffic, these four airlines will collectively dominate air traffic in the U.S.

Yet despite their similar shares and common focus of aiming to carry higher-fare paying customers, Delta Airlines has distanced themselves from their three largest competitors by being more focused, more aggressive, and just overall better managed. Here are five things that Delta does that separates itself apart:

Domination of More Hubs

If you live in Atlanta and travel for business, Delta Airlines is the only real option you have given their scope of service. Similarly, if you live Dallas, American is your go-to airline. This is because business travelers value diversity in destinations, good frequency, and reliable service often over the price paid. This relationship has been documented and studied and tends to be summarized as the “S-curve” show here:

Having a dominant seat share in a market tends to win that airline most, if not all, of the buss ... [+] traffic in that market.

As this graph shows, having a small share of seats in a market means attracting almost none of the business travel. But once meeting a certain share threshold, almost all of the business traffic chooses the same option. Delta bests their competition because they are in this sweet spot of the S-Curve in more locations and for a higher percent of their capacity. They own this position not only in Atlanta, but also in Detroit, Minneapolis, NY’s LaGuardia, and are growing their position in Seattle to create this effect. By comparison, American has this position only in Dallas and Charlotte, though some may argue Miami is a stronghold but that has been withering. United is in the worst position of the big three, fighting with American and Southwest for Chicago, fighting with two carriers for Denver, and Newark’s increased competition thanks to losing its slot protections and Delta’s build up at LaGuardia and JetBlue at JFK. Houston meets this standard for United, and maybe San Francisco too, but this is smaller amount of their system under their price control. As a result, United and American must compete for more of their business traffic than Delta must. When you know that a large percentage of your most premium revenue has no real competitor, it gives you a lot of flexibility. Southwest has this benefit for small business travelers given their high frequency service in and among many big cities but has struggled to carry the highest-paying corporate traveler.

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Interestingly, this S-Curve relationship does not hold for price-sensitive leisure travelers. That’s why low-cost carriers, often with small market share in big places, can still earn their capacity share of those travelers.

Better Labor Relations

Delta has a strong history of working with their labor groups, and has even kept several big groups non-union. Under the Railway Labor Act, the law that governs collectively-bargained agreements in the airline business, contracts do not expire but instead become “amendable”. Delta has a track record of beginning negotiations before their amendable date and signing a new deal on or close to that date. By comparison, contracts at American and United have often taken years to sign after their amendable dates, and each company has a long history of mistrust between the company and their major unions.

A common phrase in the airline business is that “weak management creates strong unions.” This has some truth in that unions fill in where the company fails for employees. If a company does not communicate regularly and openly, and provide good avenues for feedback with follow-though, the union provides that. If the company does not willingly offer market based wages, work rules, or benefits, the union bargains on their behalf. By this measure, Delta has managed better than their primary competitors, because while we may not see how the sausage is actually made, the result is a tastier link when it comes to labor relations at Delta. Southwest also is considered to have good relations but cracks have been shown recently, including when their flight attendants quickly denounced a plan for temporary wage reductions in lieu of furloughs due to demand weakness.

Smarter Fleet Strategy

Delta operates an older fleet of aircraft. With an average of 17 years in service for their planes, this makes their fleet older than American’s 11, Southwest’s 12, and United’s 14-year old fleets. Yet when you board a Delta plane you often have no idea how old the plane is because of their investment in interiors. Plus, Delta, through their Technical Operations division, is able to maintain high dispatch reliability for this fleet giving Delta both a lower-cost fleet with no sacrifice to operational integrity.

Delta was also aggressive when the pandemic hit, grounding their fleet of Boeing 777s and 717s while their competitors were not nearly as decisive. While I wouldn't give Delta credit for not owning the Boeing 737MAX when it was grounded, this isn't coincidence either as they tend not to own the newest planes and keep their fleet flying with good maintenance. American has a newer fleet that has resulted in their sky-high debt load. United has actually, and curiously , tried to claim that it is a strategy to keep more wide-body planes for the big snap-back in long-haul demand. Southwest keeps things simple with one airplane type but has found that even within that one airplane, problems with specific models can cause significant disruption.

Global Airline Investments

Like all airline investors, Delta has taken some near-term write offs for its investments in global airlines. While their biggest competitors tout their alliances and partnerships with airlines around the world, Delta has taken equity positions in airlines in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. This not only has reorganized the playing field among the big alliances somewhat, but also gives access to the economic returns available in markets they cannot serve on their own.

In the near-term this may look to be a weakness in their strategy, and yet as demand returns I believe this will again be considered a strength. This gives Delta a literal seat at the table of airlines in other geographies, so they can act more quickly and take advantage of trends before their competitors are even made aware. Southwest’s recent international expansion broadens their view somewhat, but their code-share relationships have been limited and not particularly successful. Delta is more global than American and United, and as a long-term strategy this positions them ahead of their competitors.

Clearer Strategic Focus

As evidence by all of the above, Delta has a clearer focus on why they are in business and what their core competencies are. Leadership at both American and United has spoken publicly about the threat of low-cost carriers in their markets. Delta has stayed focused on serving their high-paying business travelers well, but then introduced the industry’s first Basic Economy fare to compete with low-cost carriers. Delta does not apologize for its high fares, and enough passengers have historically chosen them deposit this because of they breadth of service, high reliability, and attention to detail that beats what their competitors do. Delta held out the longest in blocking middle seats for passengers during the pandemic, in part because of a fleet strategy that made this less costly for them to do so. They bought an oil refinery that helped the whole industry in that it kept refining capacity online that otherwise would have been shuttered. In these, and many other ways, Delta has distinguished themselves as the carrier to beat amount the largest U.S. airlines.

This does not mean they are out of the woods, however. By their own admission, they will emerge to be 15% smaller than pre-pandemic. Their reliance on business travel means they will be the most hurt when all of this traffic does not return . Their International focus means this part of their network will take more time to recover. The features that make low-cost carriers much better positioned at this time still elude Delta and the rest of their large competitors, so losing share to this group is likely. But if a business-focused airline is to survive and thrive, Delta is the one to bet on.

Ben Baldanza

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