In a blow to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Delta Air Lines on Friday reversed course, saying it will not be flying from Fresno to Atlanta after all.
"We looked at the summer schedule and had a stronger need for the aircraft in an international capacity," said Anthony Black, a spokesman for the airline.
Instead of launching big-jet service to Atlanta, Delta will add a fourth daily regional jet between Fresno and Salt Lake City. That additional flight will start June 7 and will be a 50-passenger regional jet.
Delta never formally announced the Fresno-to-Atlanta service, but in February had filed some preliminary information for the route with Official Airline Guide, a transportation information service.
However, the company decided not to go forward with the Fresno service, Black said, and never sold any tickets to Atlanta. Travel agents were eager for the new service because it would have increased options for people flying east. Atlanta, as Delta's hub, has a plentiful supply of connecting flights.
Analysts say Delta has cut service in other cities, too.
"It isn't unexpected, given Delta's suspending summer flights to Atlanta from a number of Western cities so they can expand service into Central and South America," said Ed Beckman, a Fresno businessman and analyst.
Fresno airports chief Russ Widmar said the decision likely was tied to Delta's financial position.
Delta has lost more than $18 billion since 2001 but is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection April 30.
"The bankruptcy undoubtedly has an impact, and it's a shame this happened. Maybe next year," Widmar said.
Fresno is gaining and losing service.
In addition to the fourth Delta flight, US Airways is adding larger jets to four of its five flights to Phoenix, and United will be adding a fourth flight to Denver on Saturdays for the summer, Beckman said.
In addition, a new carrier, ExpressJet, plans to start flying to Ontario on April 30 and to San Diego on May 14, using regional jets. Frontier Airlines will end service to Denver on June 15 because ridership has fallen, and it is losing money on the route.
Beckman said Delta's brief interest in flying to Atlanta bodes well for Fresno Yosemite International, which draws from a growing population between Merced and Bakersfield. The airport last year reached record ridership levels for the fourth consecutive year.
"That Delta planned service to Atlanta is a sign that the market has grown to where the demand for service east has been recognized by a major carrier," he said. "Now, the question to be answered is when, not if, Fresno will see nonstop service to Atlanta."
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