Delta Plans to Shut Down Comair Regional Airline on Sept. 29
By James Shillinglaw
July 28, 2012 11:17 AM
Delta Air Lines, in a move showing how far airline strategy has come from the late 1990s, said its Comair regional airline subsidiary will stop operating after Sept. 29, 2012. Ryan Gumm, president of Comair, wrote to Comair employees that Delta has decided to remove the remaining 16 50-seat regional jets from the Delta Connection fleet, effectively removing Comair from the airlines network.
Delta recently announced its intent to reduce the overall number of 50-seat regional jets in its network from nearly 350 to 125 or fewer in light of the significant changes in the economic and competitive conditions in the airline industry. “We believed this announcement would have a negative impact on Comair because we operate some of the oldest 50-seat aircraft in the Delta Connection fleet, which also have the highest unit cost per flight hour,” Gumm said. “In fact, Delta has decided to remove the remaining 16 Comair 50-seaters from the Delta network, leaving Comair with only 28 aircraft in scheduled service. This further reduction of Comair's active fleet will only create higher unit costs, which equates to a business model that is no longer sustainable in this competitive regional environment.”
In the late 1990s, most major U.S. airlines developed a strategy to fly smaller regional jets that could efficiently serve smaller airports and provide more frequency, instead of having larger jets fly with empty seats. Now that strategy has come full circle and airlines are reducing the number of regional jets they fly.
Gumm pointed out that Comair accounts for roughly 1percent of Delta's network capacity, so there will be no disruption to customers and no significant adjustments to Delta's flight schedule or locations served. “All customers who travel on the Delta network, whether on Delta Connection flights or mainline aircraft, can continue to make travel plans with Delta as they have in the past.”
“While regional flying has and will remain a key component of Delta's network, customer expectations and the unit costs of regional flying have evolved,” said Don Bornhorst, senior vice president of Delta Connection, which oversees regional airline operations, in a memo to Delta officers and directors.
Delta said Cincinnati, a major Comair hub, will continue to be an important market in Delta’s worldwide network. “Over the past several years, working with community leaders, Delta has right-sized capacity at Cincinnati to better match service to local passenger demand,” the airline said. “Cincinnati is now a profitable market for Delta and the city continues to enjoy over 120 peak daily flights, with non-stop service to 49 destinations. No reductions in the number of Delta flights are planned at Cincinnati as a result of this decision.
But clearly there will be reductions in staff due to Delta’s decision. Gumm wrote that Delta will offer assistance to Comair employees affected by the decision. “The quality of our operations has continued to be outstanding during our lengthy restructuring efforts, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead such a committed team,” Gumm wrote. “I am asking that each of you recognize the importance of remaining focused on safety and the job at hand as we continue operations throughout the wind-down period. Your continued commitment and your dedication to a safe and reliable operation is a testament to the professional team we have built here at Comair.”