It was bound to happen, so industry analysts weren’t shocked by Delta Air Lines decision last week to cease operations at wholly-owned Comair at the end of September, but the closure will have major implications for employees of the airline as well as the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Comair is the only Delta Connection carrier owned by the airline, with other regionals such as Pinnacle Airlines, SkyWest and Mesaba being privately owned. Most recently flying just one percent of Delta’s flights, Comair used to be a major feed airline for Atlanta-based. Delta. Currently flying about 290 daily Delta Connection flights, mostly from CVG (the Cincinnati airport is located in Covington, Kentucky), Comair’s flights after the carrier shuts down will be flown by other contracted regional airlines which have not only plenty of capacity to cover the schedule requirements, but larger, more fuel efficient aircraft.
Flying older, inefficient aircraft is the primary reason being attributed to Comair’s closure. Its 50-passenger, all-coach,CRJ-100 and -200 regional jets are unable to operate cost-effectively, leaving Delta with only two options. Buy or lease newer regional jets for the airline, or get out of the business altogether, allowing other Delta Connection partners to pick-up the slack. Comair employs 1,700 people including those in its Erlanger, Kentucky headquarters, plus pilots, flight attendants and airport staff. About 1,100 of the employees are based in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, many of whom will need to relocate if they want to remain in the airline industry.
At its peak, Comair had about 7,000 employees and flew 1,160 daily flights. The shutdown will have no impact on Delta’s operations at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, but also shows how well MSP and Minnesota has fared since the acquisition of Northwest Airlines by Delta in 2008. The Twin Cities hub with close to 500 daily flights, is the second-largest for the airline, trailing only its headquarters operation in Atlanta.