Delta pulling Boston flights from BIA

Bangor's biggest carrier says run unprofitable


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Aug. 6--BANGOR, Maine -- Just days after one airline officially ended its tenure at Bangor International Airport, another has announced that it will discontinue flights, leaving the municipal airport with fewer options for air travelers.

Delta Air Lines informed BIA this week that as of Dec. 1, 2009, it would stop its twice-daily Bangor-to-Boston service because those flights are no longer profitable. Delta has operated two 50-passenger planes between the New England cities for about two years. Before that, a Delta subsidiary offered multiple daily flights on 19-passenger planes from Bangor to Boston.

Assistant airport director Tony Caruso said Wednesday that Delta's recent announcement is bad news for the airport but also emblematic of a troubled industry.

"We were finally starting to reverse some passenger trends, so this is definitely disappointing," he said.

Already, Continental Airlines has ceased its twice-daily service from BIA to Newark, N.J., leaving the airport with only Delta, US Airways and Allegiant Air.

Delta, which recently completed a merger with Northwest Airlines, has the biggest market share of any carrier in Bangor, accounting for about 50 percent of passengers.

The Atlanta-based company will still continue to offer daily flights from BIA to Detroit and JFK International Airport in New York.

"While we hoped that Bangor would not be affected by the potential cuts, we also knew that if any of the Bangor-based routes were not performing to Delta's standard, those routes could be in jeopardy," airport director Rebecca Hupp said in a statement released Wednesday.

Airlines measure the success of flights largely on load factor, a measure of how full a plane is. Last year, Delta's Bangor-to-Boston flights operated with an average load factor of about 80 percent. For the first four months of this year it was 65 percent.

Delta officials told BIA officials that the current service to Boston is unprofitable, particularly during the winter and early spring months. The cut is one of many the airline is making nationwide. According to industry trade reports, Delta expects to reduce seat capacity nationally this fall by as much as 9 percent or 10 percent, up from June's projection of a 5 percent to 8 percent capacity reduction.

The looming loss of the Delta flights creates a hole at BIA, both for customers and for revenue.

Boston serves as the closest large hub for many domestic and international destinations, and the Bangor-to-Boston flights were particularly convenient for business travelers who may have to look for another option.

"Our first hope would be for the Bangor-Boston service to be picked up by another airline so that our passengers do not experience a gap in service," Hupp said. "Another potential would be for Delta to resume the service on a seasonal basis. Regardless, we will be working toward the best possible solution. We will be sure to keep the traveling public informed of our progress."

The airport is an enterprise-funded entity operated by the city of Bangor but supported solely through airport-generated revenue.

Caruso said BIA is fortunate to have other sources of revenue, such as the Maine Air National Guard base and its international fueling operations.

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