Atlantic Southeast Airlines Has Highest Delay Rate

Known as ASA, the regional airline has long grappled with service issues.


If you traveled on Delta Connection carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines this summer, you had almost a 50-50 chance of being late - the highest delay rate in the industry. On top of that, you also faced the highest odds of having your baggage lost.

Known as ASA, the regional airline has long grappled with service issues. But lately it's achieved a rare ignominy: Out of 20 airlines tracked in a government report, ASA ranked 20th in both on-time performance and baggage handling in each of the last four monthly reports.

ASA's problems are also Delta Air Lines' problems. ASA customers fly on tickets sold by Delta and in planes painted with Delta colors - so Delta naturally gets the blame if they have problems.

More Delta customers also find themselves on ASA, whose 358 daily flights out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport account for about one in six Delta passengers. That number has grown rapidly as the bigger carrier shifted more domestic flying to regional partners as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring.

"Am I happy with it? No, not at all," said Joe Kolshak, Delta's executive vice president of operations. "These aren't ASA customers. They are Delta customers. We sell Delta tickets."

It has been so bad, Kolshak said, that ASA has missed out on millions of dollars in performance incentives under its contract with Delta. Kolshak keeps a digital camera handy to document problems he can forward to ASA's managers.

The man getting many of those pictures is Anthony DiNota, who two months ago was put in charge of fixing ASA's service shortcomings as head of its Atlanta airport operations.

He makes no excuses.

"Every criticism we get, we deserve," DiNota said. The Atlanta hub is where most of the problems originate, he added. "It's our golden goose. We better figure out how to make her purr."

He said the 5,700-employee company is hiring 300 extra employees, spending $5 million on extra equipment and facilities and overhauling procedures to improve its baggage and on-time performance.

Jobs affected

Improvement can't come soon enough for some customers.

Michael McCullough, a public relations account executive, said an ASA flight he took this summer from Atlanta to Key West, Fla., was significantly delayed because of overbooking.

"Everyone was on vacation and no one wanted to take the miles or whatever," he said, referring to an ASA offer of Delta SkyMiles to get passengers to give up seats. "We sat there for 45 minutes. It was crazy." Finally, he said, ASA involuntarily bumped the last passengers who had checked in, and the flight departed.

Russ McGonagil, an independent TV technician who runs instant replays for college football games and other sports programs, is more forgiving. Or maybe just more jaded.

Late flights and glitches are just "part of flying," said McGonagil, who has flown out of Atlanta most weekends for more than two decades.

"They've loaded up all of the planes. The system is filled up to the max so that all it takes is a little sprinkle ... to clog up the system," he said. "It doesn't bother me that much any more."

Many smaller cities rely on ASA for a link to Delta's Atlanta hub, and businesspeople in some have long complained about ASA.

"It affects my ability to do my job," said Ellen McNair, vice president of corporate development for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. She said people flying in to consider locating a business or convention in Montgomery were upset by bad ASA flights.

"It reflects on Montgomery," she said. "If you can't get here, or you're delayed or your bag is lost ... good luck getting that convention."

She said the community has sent letters, pleaded with local managers and dispatched emissaries to Atlanta to meet Delta and ASA executives. "This has been a very big epic for us over the last seven or eight years," she said. "There's just no excuse for the service that they provide."

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