The first airline in the Western Hemisphere to fly the current generation of 50-seat regional jets will cease all operations by the end of September. Delta Air Lines subsidiary Comair, a Bombardier CRJ operator since 1993, will fly its last passenger on September 29, marking the end of a 35-year run as one of the most recognizable names in the U.S. regional airline business.
“While regional flying has [been] and will remain a key component of Delta’s network, customer expectations and the unit costs of regional flying have evolved,” wrote Delta Connection senior vice president Don Bornhorst in a memo to the officers and directors of Delta Air Lines. “In response, Delta recently announced its plans to reduce the total number of regional jets in its network while adding more mainline flying… 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.”
In a separate memo issued this morning to all employees, Comair president Ryan Gumm explained that the decision by Delta to close the Cincinnati-based airline centered on the advanced age and cost of its regional fleet. Flying the oldest RJ fleet in the Delta Connection system, Comair for years has presented a target for Delta’s cost-cutting and fleet paring exercises, most notably in 2010, when the company announced it would cut 49 fifty-seat CRJs by the end of this year, leaving the company with just 16 CRJ200s, 15 CRJ700s and 13 CRJ900s. Now, as Delta moves to pare the total complement of 50-seat jets in its regional system from some 350 to 125, Comair again faces the proverbial ax.
Left with just the 28 larger regional jets, the company no longer carries the economies of scale to remain viable.
“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,” said Gumm.
Delta insists the move will not result in any significant changes to its network, although it will have to reallocate Comair’s larger regional jets to other Delta Connection carriers.
Comair now accounts for roughly one percent of Delta’s network capacity, meaning customers can expect “no disruption” to service and no “significant” adjustments to Delta’s flight schedule or locations served.
It also stressed that Cincinnati will continue to serve as an important market in its worldwide network. “Cincinnati is now a profitable market for Delta and the city continues to enjoy more than 120 peak daily flights, with nonstop service to 49 destinations,” Delta said in a statement. “No reductions in the number of Delta flights are planned at Cincinnati as a result of this decision.”