Delta Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Delta becomes the third major carrier to enter Chapter 11 since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But fuel prices began to soar, and the losses continued.

While all the major airlines have suffered from labor and fuel issues, some say Delta's situation has been made more difficult because of how long it took to get the pilot concessions. Airline expert Terry Trippler said he believes Delta should have filed for bankruptcy much sooner.

''That Delta attitude, it's been there a long time, it's what made them great, and it's what made them hesitant to seek protection long ago,'' said Trippler, who runs travel Web site

Since Delta first came to the edge of bankruptcy last year, its pilot ranks have thinned as some have retired early. Retiring Delta pilots can elect to receive half their pension benefits in a lump sum and the other half as an annuity later -- a move that could ensure they received at least some payout even if Delta later filed for bankruptcy. It's not clear how the lump sum benefit would be affected in bankruptcy, but bankruptcy judges have great leeway in approving changes to company operations.

As of June 30, Delta and its subsidiaries had 65,300 full-time employees and 869 total aircraft that the airline owned or leased. Delta also owns a regional feeder carrier, Comair Inc., and a low-fare carrier, Song.

Song also filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday.

Delta is the nation's third-largest airline in terms of annual revenue. It has hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City. Delta also is a major U.S. carrier to Europe.

Though based in Atlanta, Delta decided to file for bankruptcy in New York. Bankruptcy experts say some major companies based elsewhere file in New York because that is where much of the investment community is located and because bankruptcy judges there are perceived to be predictable in how they handle major cases. Mississippi-based WorldCom Inc. filed for Chapter 11 in New York in 2002.

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