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Regional air carrier files for bankruptcy

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Northwest Airlink has six daily flights into and out of Toledo.

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MINNEAPOLIS - Regional carrier Mesaba Airlines followed Northwest Airlines Corp. into bankruptcy yesterday, a victim of Northwest's cuts as the big airline shrinks to try to fix its own financial problems.

Mesaba parent MAIR Holdings Inc. said the Chapter 11 bankruptcy was prompted by "cash shortages and significant fleet changes and uncertainties imposed on it by Northwest Airlines," which is Mesaba's only customer.

The company said it expects to keep flying while in bankruptcy.

Mesaba, flying as Northwest Airlink, has six daily flights to and from Toledo Express Airport, said Brian Schwartz, spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

"We do not expect any change in Mesaba's operations in the short term," he said. "We have not had any discussions about the long term."

Mesaba's schedule, passengers, and planes all come from Northwest, and its financial problems did too.

It ferries passengers between Northwest hubs and outposts around the upper Midwest, where it is often the only air carrier.

Northwest entered bankruptcy court on Sept. 14 and is cutting its domestic schedule to avoid unprofitable routes. Many of those cuts have fallen on its regional carriers, Mesaba and Pinnacle Airlines Inc.

Mesaba was founded in 1944, using one plane to fly between Grand Rapids, Minn., and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

It began flying for Northwest in 1984 and now serves about 100 cities in the upper Midwest and Canada and has 3,945 employees. It operates a fleet of 98 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft. Northwest has said it will take away Mesaba's 35 Avro Regional Jets, about a third of its fleet of 100. Last week, Mesaba warned that Northwest said it would remove 10 Saab prop planes on Jan. 4.

Meanwhile, another regional airline, Comair, said yesterday it will cut jobs, wages, and its fleet to save up to $70 million a year as parent Delta Air Lines Inc. tries to reshape itself for survival.

Comair announced it would eliminate up to 650 more jobs, resulting from Delta's cost slashing during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Combined with earlier announcements, Comair will cut 1,000 jobs, or 14 percent of its work force.

The airline also flies out of Toledo Express.

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