Delta Unit to Consolidate Services for Regional Carriers

A newly formed division of Delta Air Lines will set up shop in the Twin Cities later this year, combining airport customer-service functions for Delta's regional carriers.

The unit, called Regional Handling Services, will lead the customer-service employees who work for Comair, Compass and Mesaba Airlines. That move, along with consolidation of other regional operations in Minneapolis, follows Delta's acquisition of Northwest Airlines in October and is part of its plan to reduce costs and increase revenue.

While the handling-services division offers a new business for the Twin Cities even as Northwest headquarters jobs are eliminated or moved to Atlanta, the regional subsidiary won't put a huge dent in job losses here.

There could be about 140 jobs related to the new Delta's regional flight operations in the Twin Cities when changes are complete, but not all of those will be new.

For starters, Delta Connection — the Atlanta-based umbrella that operates Delta's regional flight service with various partners — is moving its headquarters and about 15 jobs to Minneapolis. Delta Connection will operate out of a large building and hangar known as Building C on 34th Avenue, north of I-494. Regional Handling Services will be there, too.

Comair, a Delta regional carrier based in Cincinnati, will move an unspecified number of jobs here. Compass, a small carrier that operates 36 regional jets, will move its headquarters to the Twin Cities from Chantilly, Va.

And Mesaba, based in Eagan, will remain. All those operations together produce the 140 regional jobs.

Don Stephens, a veteran of Comair, will lead the new Regional Handling Services. The unit will be responsible for all ticket-counter, gate and baggage-handling services in approximately 100 small- and medium-sized markets currently managed by Comair and Mesaba.

Comair and Mesaba overlap in six markets nationally, and Delta said it doesn't anticipate any involuntary job losses for customer-service employees because of the changes. Any staffing adjustments are expected to come through attrition or voluntary programs.

Some office jobs tied to the regional operations may be lost through consolidation, with employees being offered severance or a chance to look for other jobs with Delta, said Anthony Black, a Delta spokesman.

The announcement comes a couple weeks after Delta and the Metropolitan Airports Commission reached a deal on renegotiating several agreements and leases Northwest had at the Twin Cities airport. The agreement calls for the new Delta, which currently employs about 11,500 in Minnesota, to keep at least 10,000 jobs in the state. In negotiations with the MAC, Delta agreed to move the regional operations to the Twin Cities.

Delta also said this week it is dropping 170 gates at airports nationwide as it merges operations with Northwest. At Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Delta will maintain its three gates on Concourse E and use space in the 101 gates Northwest controls. And there's plenty of space available following Northwest's capacity cuts.

Concourses D and F at the Twin Cities airport saw usage plummet in 2008 as Northwest reduced the number of seats in the air — first to cope with high fuel prices then to respond to slack demand for seats.

Passenger traffic on Concourse D was down 41 percent in 2008, and Concourse F was down 7.5 percent.