HEBRON, Ky. - A Cincinnati-based airline that once set the standard for commuter air travel will take off its last flights in September, putting as many as 1,600 employees out of work.
Comair will cease operations after Sept. 29, 2012, according to information Delta representatives released Friday morning. Delta bought the once independent airline in 2000. Comair is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines and Comair accounts for approximately one percent of Delta's network capacity.
The closure comes after Delta decided to reduce the number to 50-seat regional jets from 350 aircrafts to less than 125 aircrafts. President of Comair Ryan Gumm said regional flying has and will remain a key component of Delta's network.
It's estimated that about 1,600 employees will lose their jobs after the Comair closure including 800 local employees out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. It's possible some of Comair's current employees will retain jobs at other Delta subsidiaries.
Gumm attributed the closure to industry and economic challenges in a memo sent to employees Friday morning.
"The discontinuation of Comair's operations is in no way a failure or a reflection of your work – it is an unfortunate necessity due to the economic limitations of our aging aircraft, cost structure, the long-term outlook for 50-seat aircraft, and our challenging industry and economy," Gumm wrote in the memo.
The Comair closure will not result in the reduction of the number of Delta flights planned out of Cincinnati, according to Delta representatives.
CVG released the following statement Friday afternoon:
"The Kenton County Airport Board has been working proactively to ensure that CVG remains a premiere airport and can be agile in responding to an ever changing airline industry. This news is one of the scenarios we had planned for here at CVG. Delta operates eight other regional carriers and it is our understanding, from Delta, that there will be no interruption or reduction in flights. We will continue to work closely with Delta during this transition. At the same time, we are pursuing our aggressive air service strategy that includes both legacy and low-cost carriers. On the cargo side, DHL continues to grow at CVG and we are in active discussions with other companies interested in doing business with CVG. Diversifying the airport's business is one of our chief objectives as we move forward with our reinvention plans."
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the following statement:
"Today's announcement is sad news for Cincinnati, as 300 southwest Ohio families will be looking for new opportunities as ComAir ceases operations. I've pressed Delta to ensure that they do everything they can to provide opportunities for the workers impacted within their regional air partners. Delta has also committed to us that there are no plans to change Delta's flights in and out of CVG, which is important for Cincinnati's business community as they look for opportunities to grow and build their businesses across the nation and the world."
"It's a sad day," said Patrick Sowers, the first president of Comair, who says the airline's first flight took off from the CVG to Akron, Ohio, at 7:40 a.m. April 12, 1977.
Comair was founded in 1977 and quickly became an innovator as a regional airline. Comair pioneered the use of the CRJ regional jet to replace outdated turboprop aircraft.
Delta came to rely on regional jets from Comair and other affiliates as it added flights to and from its major hubs, representatives from CVG said. Comair was the only carrier to operate out of Concourse C at CVG.
Concourse C was shuttered by Delta several years ago.
Many saw the writing on the wall with the Comair closure and the I-Team first reported earlier this month that the airline may be shutting down. There was talk of Delta phasing out Comair following an 89-day strike by more than 1,300 pilots in 2001 shortly after Delta bought the airline. They fought for decent pay and decent work conditions, saying they were often on call for 16 hours a day.
Talks popped up again in 2006 when Delta began cutting the number of Comair's aircraft and flights.
In 2010, Delta announced it would be slashing Comair's fleet in half by the end of 2012, and reducing staff to levels needed to operate a much smaller airline.
To read the full Delta release about the Comair closure, go to http://news.delta.com/index.php?s=43&item=1676 .