(Erlanger, Ky.) – Citing the changing expectations and costs of the regional airline industry, Delta Air Lines formally announced it will cease Comair operations on September 29.
The move had been rumored in recent weeks when Delta did not schedule Comair flights beginning in October.
In a news release Friday morning, Delta senior vice president Don Bornhorst said Delta is reducing the total number of regional jets in its network while adding more mainline flying.
“This includes reducing the number of 50-seat regional jets from nearly 350 aircraft to 125 or fewer in the upcoming years. As a result of this reduction and changes to its customer-focused business strategy, Delta has made the difficult decision to cease Comair's operations,” Bornhorst said.
Comair president Ryan Gumm delivered the news to Comair employees in a memo Friday morning. Comair employs about 1,600 people – more than 800 of them at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
“The discontinuation of Comair's operations is in no way a failure or a reflection of your work – it is an unfortunate necessity due to the economic limitations of our aging aircraft, cost structure, the long-term outlook for 50-seat aircraft, and our challenging industry and economy,” Gumm said in the memo.
Comair’s human resources department will work to keep employees informed of assistance available to them and answer questions. Staff will be available over the weekend to help.
The closing is the bottoming out of a slow reduction for Comair. The airline was a trailblazer in the regional jet industry. Delta purchased Comair for nearly $2 billion in 1999.
Gumm gave reasons that the current Delta business model wouldn’t be sustainable after the parent company’s decision to reduce the number of 50-seat regional jet flights to 125.
“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. And, 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,” he said.
Delta said the end of Comair will not significantly affect Delta’s network and shouldn’t result in disruption for customers. Comair currently accounts for only one percent of Delta’s network capacity.