Citing financial losses and empty seats, Delta Airlines has announced that it will soon be cutting service to up to 24 smaller markets in eight states, mostly in the north-central region of the country.
Many of the Delta routes to the cities affected by the cuts (see below for complete list) were inherited during the airline’s acquisition of Northwest. All but eight of the destinations were subsidized by the federal Essential Air Service program, which attempts to guarantee that smaller markets are still reachable by air travel.
Explains the airline in a statement:
While Delta would prefer to continue serving these communities, the new reality of mounting cost pressures faced by our industry means we can no longer afford to provide this service. As we continue to strengthen our business, Delta is retiring the Saab turboprops and some 50-seat jet aircraft, which will hinder the financial viability of serving these smaller markets.
The airline says that, nationwide, its planes run at about 83% passenger capacity. But in the average for these markets is around 52%, with some as low as 12%. It says it has even operated flights with zero passengers on board.
There is no hard deadline for when Delta will cease flying to the locales subsidized by EAS. The airline has notified the Dept. of Transportation and will continue to operate these routes until the DOT finds replacement carriers.
Additionally, some cities — though the airline does not specify which — on the list may not be cut by Delta if the DOT agrees to increase the subsidies in those markets to allow Delta to fly larger regional jets there. We attempted twice to make contact with the Delta press office for clarification on which markets the airline is looking to keep open with higher subsidies, but no one would even answer the phone to give us a non-statement.
Delta says it will reach out to customers who have booked travel to any of these destinations to arrange alternate transportation or refunds. If you want to be more proactive about it, you can call them at 1-800-221-1212.
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