Comair Gets More Time for Service Bid

Delta Air Lines Inc. has agreed to extend the deadline for its Comair subsidiary to bid on regional jet service as Comair continues to cope with the crash of Flight 5191 that killed 49 people, Comair's top executive said on Thursday.

Comair President Don Bornhorst said in a memo to employees that he asked Atlanta-based Delta to extend the Sept. 18 deadline it had set for bids for some of its regional jet service, much of which is now handled by Comair. Bornhorst said Delta has agreed to give Comair until Oct. 2 to submit its proposal.

The jet crashed Sunday morning while the pilot tried to take off from Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky. An investigation into the crash has raised numerous questions about human error.

Bornhorst said the company is concentrating on helping families of the crash victims and investigators and supporting its employees.

"The additional time will allow us to keep our focus for now exactly where it should be," Bornhorst said.

Delta said Aug. 22 that it had requested proposals from Comair and other regional airlines for operating up to 143 of its regional jets, including up to 43 70-seat jets and as many as 50 50-seat jets. Delta also is seeking bids for the operation of 50 new 76-seat jets not yet in service.

Delta's executive vice president of operations, Joe Kolshak, said the airline was requesting proposals because it needs to cut costs as it restructures under bankruptcy protection. Comair also is operating under bankruptcy protection and Delta's decision to seek proposals from various carriers could result in a loss of revenue for Comair.

Bornhorst has said that Delta's announcement last week makes it even more important that Comair complete its restructuring so that it can keep what it has and win the right to operate new 76-seat jets.

Comair, based across the river from Cincinnati in Erlanger, Ky., now has 27 of the 70-seat planes and some of the 50-seat planes. Chautauqua Airlines, Shuttle America and Freedom Airlines also operate some of the regional jet service for Delta.

A Delta spokeswoman said Thursday that the deadline had not been extended for other airlines.

"We extended the deadline for Comair in light of the recent tragedy," said Betsy Talton, a Delta spokeswoman. She said the extension should not delay Delta's decision.

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