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Delta Air Lines in a memo Tuesday indicated that on
Sept. 3 it will effectively de-hub its Memphis operation, reducing the number
of daily flights to 60 and eliminating roughly 230 area positions. Delta
already had significantly pared back its presence at the airport after inheriting
the hub operations as part of its merger with Northwest Airlines.
"High fuel costs and the predominant use of
inefficient 50-seat regional jets in a small local-traffic market have made
Memphis unprofitable as a hub," according to the June 4 memo attributed to
Delta senior vice president of airport customer service and Delta TechOps Gil
West and Delta senior vice president and chief cargo officer Tony Charaf.
The memo indicated that Delta's new schedule would
"preserve nearly all the top destinations for Memphis customers. The
biggest piece of the schedule reduction is 50-seat regional jet flying, as
those aircraft begin to come out of the fleet."
While the U.S. airline industry as a whole has shrunk
significantly since 2007, service in Memphis declined even more severely,
according an MIT study on U.S. airline service released in May. The number of total
departures at Memphis in 2012 had declined by 41 percent versus 2007, the year
before Delta and Northwest announced their merger.
According to Memphis-Shelby County Airport
Authority's annual report for the fiscal year ending June 2012, Delta operated
175 flights per day in September 2011 but made several
rounds of cuts since then.
During a House of
Representatives subcommittee hearing in February examining the pending merger
between American Airlines and US Airways, Rep.
Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) took the opportunity to blast
Delta management for failing to keep promises to grow operations after merging
The carrier had indicated plans to
maintain all of its hubs following the merger, and in June 2011, Delta
CEO Richard Anderson in a interview with BTN said Memphis was "properly sized."
Regarding impacted employees, the
Delta memo noted that "there are positions available for every eligible
employee who stands to be affected by the schedule reduction at other
locations across the system," adding that a voluntary retirement package
option also has been offered.
In a bright spot Memphis air travelers, Southwest
Airlines on Nov. 3 plans to launch daily nonstop service to Houston and Tampa.
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