Delta airlines, the world’s largest passenger carrier, is shutting down Comair, a Cincinnati-based regional affiliate, as it moves to consolidate its operations under the Delta banner. The move reflects ongoing shifts in Delta’s strategy—a new labor agreement with the airline’s pilots, ratified last month, envisions a move away from the smallest, 50-seat regional jets. Those jets, which were Comair’s mainstay, have fallen out of favor with big airlines as jet-fuel prices have increased. Delta’s pilot’s union also loathed the small planes, which were often flown by regional affiliates instead of Delta’s in-house pilots.
The final straw for Comair was Delta’s agreement, finalized earlier this month, to lease several dozen 76-seat Boeing 717s from Southwest Airlines, which is returning to a 737-only fleet. Under the new labor agreement, the 717s will be flown by Delta pilots, not affiliates. That meant Comair, which has some of the oldest [and most expensive to operate] 50-seat planes in Delta’s affiliate fleet, was in big trouble.
Comair, which is a wholly owned Delta subsidiary, employs about 2,500 people, the majority of whom will lose their jobs when the airline shuts down. Many of those people live and work in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio. Steve Beshear, the governor of Kentucky, has called the lay-offs “terribly disappointing”; it remains to be seen how many of Comair’s pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance workers will be able to find jobs at Delta or other regional affiliates.
Reposted from The Economist.