Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Tue April 05 2016

Airlines Battling for Supremacy in Los Angeles

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | April 05, 2016

Airlines Battling for Supremacy in Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

At most airports in the country, one airline has a larger presence than all the other carriers who use that airport. American Airlines is the dominant name at Miami International, and United has many of the slots at SFO and Alaska Airlines has a large number of gates at Seattle Tacoma.

Things are very different at one of America’s largest and busiest hubs. All three legacy carriers have an almost-equal share of the market at Los Angeles International Airport. Now, LAX has become a battleground of sorts, with multiple airlines vying for the upper hand.

No clear dominant airline

Delta Airlines has significantly expanded its operation at LAX. It has doubled its capacity since 2009. On the busiest days, 160 Delta planes take off from the Southern California hub. American Airlines has a slight edge over Delta. It has 200 daily departures and has signed a deal to build additional gates this year so that it can increase its capacity.

United and Southwest are also very active at LAX, but United seems to be focusing most of its international expansions on San Francisco, where there is less competition.

READ MORE: LAX Creating Private Terminal For Celebrities

Not much room to grow

LAX is already quite full. American is adding the two new gates, but for any sort of major expansion, the airport would either have to build a new terminal or one of the major tenants would have to pull out or greatly reduce its presence.

The lack of room to expand is one of the main reasons why no airline has been able to gain the lion’s share of the slots at LAX. Because of this dynamic, American and Delta are focusing on building up the number of potentially more lucrative international routes from the airport. This will help them get the most out of their allotted slots. 

International routes hold the key

Both these airlines have dramatically increased their number of transpacific flights in recent months. Until recently, American's only Asian LAX destinations were Tokyo and Shanghai. It started service to Australia at the end of last year and has increased the number of flights to Tokyo after gaining additional slots at Haneda Airport.

READ MORE: Uber Officially Permitted to Operate from LAX

AA has also announced flights to Auckland and Hong Kong from LAX. These will be launched later this year, as will service to Beijing. American applied for the LAX-Beijing route a mere two weeks after Delta filed an application to fly the exact same route.

LAX has also become a major West Coast international hub for Delta. It has flights to Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney as well as the upcoming Beijing service.

So it looks like neither carrier is willing to take the chance of letting its competitor have a potentially lucrative route out of LAX all to itself. International fliers should benefit from this competition, because if there is competition on all these major routes, fares should remain relatively low.

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