Delta to Cut Tallahassee Service

Financially strapped Delta Air Lines will temporarily drop two daily flights connecting Tallahassee and Atlanta - part of an airline-wide plan to cut expenses and increase revenue, a Delta spokesman said Friday.

"It's basically part of our overall transformation going into the fall," Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. "We are just seeing what the markets are doing and are adjusting."

The 5:45 a.m. flight from Tallahassee and the 11:17 p.m. flight from Atlanta will be stopped on Sept. 1. Black said no date had been determined for ending the suspensions, but "depending on demand," the flights might return before April 1, the traditional start of the busy vacation season.

Airlines are at their busiest between April 1 and Sept. 1, Black said.

Delta carries about 75 percent of the Tallahassee passenger load.

Phil Inglese, the assistant director of aviation at Tallahassee Regional Airport, said Delta officials told him the suspension of the flights would not decrease the overall number of seats available on Delta for airport customers.

"It will not impact service in terms of the availability of seats - just in flight times," Inglese said.

He also said the reduced number of landings by Delta would have little effect on landing fees the airport collects from each commercial air carrier.

Those fees, Inglese said, are negotiated for a total dollar amount, so any reductions in landings means the airlines pay more per landing and takeoff.

Black said this was not the first time Delta, which Thursday posted a $388million loss for the second quarter of the year, has temporarily suspended flights in certain areas.

"We have done this before, but this is the first time we have done it on a larger scale," he said.

Black said the skyrocketing price of jet fuel has cut into Delta's operating budget. Delta spent $1.05billion on fuel in the second quarter, a 57.5-percent increase from the same period a year ago.

Crude oil prices have been above $50 a barrel for most of the year and have hit $60 a barrel or more on several occasions.

The oil price increases have hit cash-strapped Delta hard because airlines have traditionally bought jet fuel futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange to stabilize the fuel expenses.

But Delta's lack of ready cash has taken it out of the futures market, and now the airline must pay spot prices for jet fuel, which have increased more than 65 percent since last fall.