Delta's Salt Lake City Hub to Add Seven Routes

March 8, 2006
The destinations include stops in Canada -- at Victoria, British Columbia and Toronto -- and from Bellingham, Wash., to Sioux Falls, S.D. All flights except Toronto will be flown by Utah-based SkyWest.

Delta Air Lines, still struggling to reach a contract deal with its pilots amid bankruptcy restructuring, announced Monday it will expand service from its Salt Lake City hub to seven new destinations.

The destinations include stops in Canada -- at Victoria, British Columbia and Toronto -- and from Bellingham, Wash., to Sioux Falls, S.D. All flights except Toronto will be flown by Utah-based SkyWest.

"In recent months, Salt Lake has seen incredible growth in terms of the number of destinations served because customers have responded positively and favorably to our growing line-up of popular new flights and convenient Mountain West hub to destinations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico," said Bob Cortelyou, Delta's vice president of network planning.

Since October 2005, Delta has launched or announced the launch of 21 new destinations from Salt Lake City. In terms of destinations served, Salt Lake is Delta's fastest-growing domestic hub. On Monday, it launched service to Long Beach, Calif., and on Wednesday it will begin service to its 100th destination -- Mazatlan, Mexico -- originating from Salt Lake City.

"Not only is Salt Lake an ideal connection point for all travelers in the western United States, our Salt Lake-based customers continue to respond enthusiastically to all of our new nonstop flying opportunities. Here in Salt Lake City, our performance is strong, our network is strong and, most importantly, our relationship with our customers is strong."

At the same time, the Atlanta-based airline continues to struggle to reach a deal with its pilots union, a deal it concedes is critical if the carrier is to emerge from bankruptcy.

Delta and its pilots entered arbitration on Wednesday. The arbitrators will hold two weeks of hearings starting Monday to decide whether to grant Delta's request to throw out its contract with its pilots so the airline can impose $325 million in cuts unilaterally. A final decision is due no later than April 1.

Nothing prohibits the groups from negotiating during the arbitration period, and Delta spokesman Bruce Hicks said the parties have met at least once since March 1. As of Monday, however, Hicks said the parties are "still far apart on the major issues," and the Air Line Pilots Association announced that Delta pilots began voting Monday on authorizing a strike.

ALPA chairman Capt. Lee Moak initiated the ballot Monday and stated in a letter to pilots that Delta management has moved "only cosmetically" in their demands.

"Their single-element strategy seems to be one of 'bankruptcy profiteering' based in large part on the sacrifices of the Delta employees," Moak wrote.

On March 1, Delta reduced its concessions request to $305 million and offered to increase its pilots' pay 1.5 percent in 2008 and another 1.5 percent in 2009. In addition, Delta offered its pilots a $330 million note (up from $300 million) in case it terminates the pilots' pension plan. The pilots want $1 billion.

The March 1 proposal was made, Hicks said, "to demonstrate our commitment to getting a deal -- to getting a committed, comprehensive agreement.

"But we're under legal obligation to ask for the right amount -- no more and no less than what we need," Hicks said. "This is not like the traditional negotiations that happen outside of bankruptcy, where one side starts high and one side starts low. We can't just pick an arbitrary number and work from there.

"We know that for the company to be able to get out of bankruptcy, we're going to have to get a consensual agreement," he said. "To get a reorganization plan, to get financing, we know we have to get one, and we are focused on that reality and are committed to do everything we can do to reach that agreement."

Voting to authorize a strike will run from March 6 through April 4, the ALPA said Monday. If the majority of the Delta pilots authorize the strike, the union's leadership will have the authority to call a strike. Delta employs about 650 pilots in Utah, including about 350 in the Salt Lake metro area. E-mail: [email protected]

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