- Apr 6, 2004
- Total Time
http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20081112/BIZ01/311120021Delta hub staying, shrinking: Airline to cut flights; Comair to cut jobs
November 12, 2008
Delta Air Lines plans to cut 12 percent of its flying outof the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in January,but says it is restructuring the hub here to make it more profitableand therefore sustainable though at least next year.
Glen Hauenstein, Delta's executive vice president chargedwith meshing Delta's network with that of its new merger acquisitionNorthwest Airlines, said in an interview that the airline is committedto keeping a hub here through at least 2009.
"We really wanted to keep the hub there because of itslocation, layout and the great facilities, but it took us awhile tofigure out how to do it," Hauenstein said. "So Delta is now reaffirmingits commitment to the Cincinnati hub through the summer season of nextyear and then we'll take another barometer reading on how the economyis doing.
"This is the foundation to build upon, and I think thebiggest (profit) improvement in all of Delta next year is going to beCincinnati."
The new plan calls for ending service to only one city andtrimming about 40 flights a day at CVG. The 263 flights remainingflights, however, will be bunched more closely together as the airlinesynchronizes its schedules among its other six hubs nationally.
Hauenstein would not commit on what the new structurecould mean for employment at the airport as airlines nationally areexpected to pare back after the holidays to cope with the economicdownturn. But he said that the new schedule will be even more laborintensive, possibly protecting existing jobs. Still, Delta'sErlanger-based regional subsidiary Comair will see layoffs due to theflight cuts even though regional flying will make up more of the localoperation.
Delta currently employs about 2,500 locally and Comair has3,100 local workers. The local regional airline, which does themajority of the Cincinnati flying for Delta, is laying off anadditional 150 pilot layoffs early next year due to the latest flightreductions, a company official said Wednesday.
That's on top of 330 previously announced layoffs ofpilots and flight attendants that started last month as overall flyingin Cincinnati will be down 33 percent in January as compared withJanuary 2008. Comair employs about 5,800 total, including 1,300 pilotsand 800 flight attendants.
All told, Delta's regional carriers, including Comair,will fly about 85 percent of the 263 departures at Cincinnati plannedfor January, which will be down from the current 300 flights.
Delta officials declined comment on system-wide reductionsfor Delta, which is merging its operations with that ofMinneapolis-based Northwest. The merger, which was completed lastmonth, creates the world's largest airline. Delta, which now has sevenhubs after the merger, has planned a news conference for later today toannounce its overall scheduling plans for January when its winterschedule begins.
Overall, most U.S. airlines are reducing capacity afterthe holidays, with even normally profitable low-cost carrier Southwestcutting 5 percent out of its schedule in January.
When Delta's new schedule goes into effect locally, theairport will keep all of its current destinations except Austin, Texas,making the new total 91.
However, the summertime flight to Rome could be injeopardy due to the economic slowdown, while daily frequencies to suchcities as Asheville, N.C, Columbus, and Seattle will be reduced. Deltaofficials declined to provide more specifics about frequency cutbackselsewhere.
"This is good news in that it keeps things pretty much asthey are, but I would not say it is wonderful news," said Lawson WalkerII, chairman of the Kenton County Airport Board, which oversees CVG'soperations. "Wonderful news would be adding more planes. Still, this isgood for the business traveler and we can still say we have the hub."
Walker said he and other board members are trying toschedule a meeting later this month with top Delta brass to discuss notonly current local levels of air service, but also the issue of localair fares. The Transportation Department recently ranked Cincinnati ashaving the highest air fares in the nation for the second quarter 2008,a distinction the local airport has owned for most of the last decadedue in part to Delta's dominance here.
The new structure at Cincinnati will shrink the number of"banks" - or sets of incoming and outgoing flights that aresynchronized to maximize connections - from nine to five. Hauensteinsaid that the new schedule will be coordinated with that of theNorthwest hub in Detroit to avoid competition and complement each hub'sstrengths.
"That way we can offer two medium-sized hubs with betterconnectivity and efficiency to compete with one mega-hub (for rivalsAmerican and United) in Chicago," Hauenstein said. "This is all aboutconnections and making those more plentiful. Now we can offer atraveler in say, Albany, connections through Atlanta, JFK, Detroit,Minneapolis and yes, Cincinnati - you get something nobody has beenable to offer you before. And Cincinnati is a part of all of that."