Delta Air Lines has big plans for Salt Lake City’s airport. Here’s what the carrier wants to do.

The carrier has been a driving force in the new airport’s growth. Now the airline plans to offer more training opportunities in Utah.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delta Air Lines employees converse at Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

For Delta Air Lines pilots and crew members who need certifications and training, all flight paths lead to the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

But as Salt Lake City International Airport sees continued growth, the carrier’s Utah hub could become what the airline is dubbing the “Atlanta of the West.”

Delta intends to open a facility on airport-owned property with flight simulators and crew training programs, Department of Airports Executive Director Bill Wyatt told Salt Lake City Council members last month.

The plan, if it comes to fruition, would mark a key westward expansion of the company’s training operations.

“It’s just a remarkable statement about their commitment here to Salt Lake,” Wyatt said, “and the growth that you’ve seen.”

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

It’s unclear when such a development could come on line and, for now, Delta isn’t showing its cards.

The carrier said it didn’t have any details to share and declined to make a representative available for an interview. It did release a statement underscoring its allegiance to Utah’s capital.

“Delta has a long-standing commitment to the Salt Lake City market,” a spokesperson said, “and we look forward to extending this commitment in the coming years in partnership with SLC International and the Salt Lake City community.”

SLC offers room to grow

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Passengers traverse concourse A at Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, wrote in an email that Delta’s headquarters campus next to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has no more room to grow.

The company presumably looked at other hub cities such as Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul when weighing where to expand its training operations, Harteveldt said. It landed on Salt Lake City because it has the infrastructure it needs and the ability to get any additional acreage for the new complex at a reasonable price.

Delta’s new facilities are slated for the International Center, a cluster of buildings just west of the airport.

“As one of Delta’s key hubs,” Harteveldt wrote, “it will also be relatively easy for Delta to fly the employees who need training to Salt Lake City, and possibly reduce the travel time for Delta employees who live in this part of the country.”

And many of those workers do live in Utah. According to state data, 3,000 to 4,000 Beehive State residents work for Delta, with hundreds more employed by the carrier’s affiliates.

Salt Lake City is considered a midsize hub for Delta, and the carrier is a driving force behind the airport’s growth. The company occupies every gate in concourse A, and when the new airport opened in 2020, the airline debuted its largest passenger club ever.

New lease on an even longer SLC life

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Travelers lounge in the Delta Air Lines Sky Club at Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Delta extended its lease agreement that was due to expire in 2024 by 10 years, giving investors more confidence in the airport. No other airline agreed to such an extension.

The company also is poised to deepen its ties to Utah’s capital with a new contract that could stretch its lease to 2054.

The agreement represents an essential piece of funding that would allow the airport to get the bonds it needs to round out construction of concourse B. The City Council last month signed off on allowing the airport to spend $683 million on the 16-gate expansion.

“[The lease] is substantial enough that it requires [Delta’s] corporate board approval,” Wyatt told council members, “and represents really a commitment of just billions and billions in terms of their annual commitment here in Salt Lake.”

Delta’s board is scheduled to consider the accord in December.

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Delta Air Lines flight arrives at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.