Delta Air Lines is shutting down regional-airline subsidiary Comair, Inc. as of September 30, with Comair operating its last flights on September 29.

Delta Air Lines is shutting down regional-airline subsidiary Comair, Inc. as of September 30, with Comair operating its last flights on September 29.

Don Bornhorst, senior vice president of Delta Connection, broke the news to the managers and directors of Delta Air Lines in a July 27 memo.

Delta Connection carriers such as Comair, ExpressJet and Pinnacle Airlines operate hundreds of 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100s and CRJ200s. Also in Delta Connection service are the CRJ440, a 44-seat version of the CRJ200. Delta wants to stop flying most of these smaller regional jets on its network as high fuel prices have made them uneconomical to operate

“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,” Bornhorst wrote.

Bornhorst continued: “In response, Delta recently announced its plans to reduce 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.”

Ryan Gumm, president of Comair, wrote to to Comair’s employees telling them of Delta’s decision. In his memo to the employees, Gumm wrote:

“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.

In addition to operating 50-seat Bombardier CRJ100s and CRJ200s, Delta Air Lines subsidiary Comair has been flying 15 65-seat CRJ700s and 13 76-seat CRJ900s

“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.

“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.”

Gumm’s memo also said Delta would be making assistance available to Comair employees, but did not indicate how many would retain jobs within Delta or how many staff might be laid off.

Delta Air Lines did not immediately indicate what would happen to Comair’s 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets or if another Delta Connection airline would take over Comair’s 65-seat Bombardier CRJ 700s and 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900s.

The latter two aircraft types appear likely to remain in Delta Connection service.

Delta Connection carriers operate hundreds of regional jets with 50 seats, including Bombardier CRJs (100s and 200s) and Embraer ERJ-145s. This particular Comair CRJ200 was painted in a special livery in 2008 to commemorate the airline's 25th anniversary. Comair would only last four more years, with parent Delta deciding to close Comair down in late September 2012

According to Delta Air Lines, the discontinuation of Comair’s operations will not result in any significant changes to Delta’s network, which the airline says is flexible enough to accommodate the changes. Delta says Comair accounts for approximately 1 per cent of Delta’s network capacity.

Delta hastened to say that Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, where Comair is based, will continue to be an important market in Delta’s 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 carrier said in a July 27 statement.

“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.”