Florida Airport Loses Six, Gains Two Delta Flights

Sep. 21--Customers are getting their first look at how Delta Air Lines' bankruptcy reorganization will affect their travel plans.

Over the weekend, the nation's No. 3 carrier released a new winter schedule that changed routes and flight frequencies throughout much of its network.

The shakeup is a mixed bag for Tampa Bay area travelers. Delta Connection, the small jet division flown by affiliated carriers, will eliminate nonstop flights from Tampa International Airport to Greensboro, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; and Columbia, S.C.

On Dec. 1, Delta also will cut two of its 11 daily flights to Atlanta and one to Cincinnati, leaving three flights a day, airport officials said. But Tampa International will pick up two flights to New York City on Delta's discount brand, Song.

"It's kind of a wash, but not bad," said Louis Miller, executive director at Tampa International. Delta carries about one in five passengers at the airport, ranking No. 2 behind discounter Southwest Airlines.

Airline experts predict Delta will shrink while restructuring in bankruptcy court. A research report by Bear Stearns last week said airlines typically reduce capacity 5 to 10 percent during their first year in bankruptcy.

Delta won't say how much of a cut the winter schedule represents.

At least some of the changes reflect previously announced moves, including the reduction of 26 percent of capacity at its Cincinnati hub and sale of 11 of its least efficient, double-aisle aircraft.

"This winter's changes, coupled with previous moves . . . represent the aggressive steps Delta is taking to increase the productivity and efficiency of our airline while at the same time improving service for customers," executive vice president Glen Hauenstein said in a statement.

Delta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last week after losing nearly $10-billion since early 2001. Delta said it expects to revamp its fleet by retiring four aircraft types and flying small regional jets on routes where bigger planes can't make money.

Chief executive Gerald Grinstein told employees last week to expect more layoffs and reductions in pay and benefits. The airline has cut 20 percent of its work force -- about 17,500 jobs -- since 2001.

This year, Delta closed a maintenance hangar at Tampa International, eliminating about 300 local jobs. The carrier employs about 800 people in Tampa, more than half of them at a reservations center in the West Shore district.

While Delta retrenches, low-cost competitors have stepped up expansion plans. Using planes it used to fly to New Orleans, Southwest will beef up schedules elsewhere, including adding a seventh daily flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Delta doesn't fly that route. But AirTran plans to add a flight from Tampa to Atlanta, Delta's biggest hub and headquarters city, Miller said.