The remaining daily commuter flight between Toledo Express Airport and Atlanta will end on May 1, officials said yesterday.
The elimination of the Delta Air Lines flight will reduce the nonstop destinations available from Toledo to just Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Petersburg and Sanford, Fla.
"It is important to understand that the decision to terminate our current once-daily Atlanta flight is not being caused by lack of support from our community," said Eric Frankl, airport director for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
"It is a direct result of soaring operating costs."
Delta Air Lines, faced with a weak economy, dimmer hopes of a combination with Northwest Airlines, and record fuel prices that are eating up profits, said yesterday that its goal is to cut 2,000 employees and trim its U.S. passenger capacity by 10 percent by August.
Assuming no other changes occur before then, the Delta cut will reduce Toledo Express to 15 departures on most days, plus the less-than-daily Allegiant Air service to the Florida cities.
As recently as 2004, Toledo Express had 37 daily departures.
Executives at Atlanta-based Delta said in a memo to employees that the airline's goal is to cut frontline, administrative, and management jobs through a severance program, attrition and, other initiatives.
Delta spokesman Betsy Talton said the company would accept more job cuts if more employees than expected take the voluntary severance.
The severance program primarily affects mainline Delta employees.
It will not affect Delta pilots, who have a union contract with the company, and employees at Delta regional carrier Comair, which is based in Erlanger, Ky.
One part of the program is for employees who already are eligible for retirement or for those whose age and years of service add up to at least 60, with 10 or more years of service.
The other part of the program is an "early-out" offer for frontline employees - such as flight attendants and gate and ticket agents - with 10 or more years of service and for administrative and management employees with one or more years of service.
Besides severance payments, employees who take the offers also will be entitled to travel privileges and additional benefits to manage career transitions.
Delta had 55,044 total full-time employees as of the end of last year. Delta, since 2001, had previously announced it would cut up to 33,000 jobs.
Oil prices recently cracked $111 a barrel, nearly twice what they were a year ago. Delta said that in the last three months, fuel prices have climbed nearly 20 percent and its 2008 fuel bill is now expected to increase by more than $2 billion over 2007.
Susan Elliott, another Delta spokesman, said the 50-seat jets that Delta's commuter subsidiaries use on routes like Toledo to Atlanta "are disproportionately impacted by the high price of fuel" and that factor, combined with "insufficient profitability," determined which routes would be cut back or dropped altogether.
After Delta reduced the Toledo-Atlanta route from two daily roundtrips to one in early January, Mr. Frankl said he was optimistic the remaining flight would survive because of the international connections many of its passengers made in Atlanta.
He even suggested that Toledo might even be assigned larger aircraft once Delta began eliminating 50-seat jets from its fleet.
But Michael Boyd, an aviation industry analyst who has consulted local airport officials in the past and last month spoke to local business leaders at a Toledo Club luncheon about Toledo Express's future, warned in January that fuel costs and the potential Northwest-Delta merger both clouded the Toledo-Atlanta route's future.
The Toledo-Cincinnati route will have three roundtrips on most days, with four on Thursdays and two on Saturdays, Ms. Elliott said. That route is serviced by Chautauqua Airlines.
Delta said that this summer more than 40 percent of its capacity will be dedicated to international flying, where it can get better premiums on ticket prices.
Delta plans to increase international capacity by more than 15 percent this year.
At the same time, it expects to reduce domestic capacity by 10 percent by August, 5 percent more than under its previous business plan.
Delta plans to use some aircraft less and park 15 to 20 mainline aircraft and 20 to 25 regional jets. It also plans to sell some aircraft as those planes are removed from service.
Delta shares rose 86 cents, or 9.3 percent, to close at $10.09 in trading yesterday. The company's stock price has still lost more than half its value since Delta emerged from bankruptcy last April.
The memo from Chief Executive Richard Anderson and President Ed Bastian did not mention Delta's talks with Northwest Airlines Corp. about a combination that would create the world's largest airline.
Mr. Bastian also spoke to investors yesterday at a conference in New York.
"We're focused on addressing our challenges," Mr. Bastian said. "We're moving quickly. We're focused on performance."
Mr. Bastian said Delta will continue to grow internationally.
He brushed off concerns raised by one analyst that robust international expansion may be the wrong approach while many corporations are cutting back on travel as the economy weakens.
Information from The Blade's news services was used in this report.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.