More 70 seaters coming to Comair and ASA

Kingairer

'Tiger Team' Member
Delta's Wholly Owned Regionals Set To Expand 70-Seat Flying


Delta's wholly owned Connection carriers Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and
Comair are capping off their 40- and 50-seat Bombardier regional jet deliveries
at the end of 2003 as they prepare to deploy larger 70-seat CRJs slated for
delivery through 2004.


Delta Connection CEO Fred Buttrell told The DAILY Delta Connection has taken on
"a lot of growth in 2003," and the company is happy with its 40- and 50-seat
jet network heading into 2004.


ASA and Comair plan to add 35 70-seat RJs by yearend and 23 next year, which
hits the 58 aircraft cap in Delta's mainline pilot contract. Buttrell explained
targeted uses for larger 70-seat Bombardier CRJs are flights on longer
incremental routes like Dallas-Oakland/Orange County, and new routes from hubs
to leisure destinations with shorter runways, such as Cincinnati-Key West.


As ASA and Comair continue to grow, Buttrell said using rotating crews and
aircraft at the regionals' Atlanta and Cincinnati hubs "works well." One
example is using a Comair crew on flights from Cincinnati to Raleigh/Durham, N.
C., and having another Comair crew fly N.C.-Atlanta.


Current aircraft utilization for 50- and 70-seat jets is about 10.5 hours a
day. Buttrell said the carriers would strive "for a bit higher next year,"
explaining that upping aircraft utilization benefits employees through more
block hours and gives passengers more service options and lower fares.


Delta Connection's wholly owned carriers are in "good shape" in terms of
financing of aircraft commitments this year and in 2004, Buttrell said. He
added that adequate financing was one item the company would need before
committing to future growth.


Buttrell doesn't predict adding more partners to Delta Connection's network in
the near future. ASA and Comair fly about 72% of Connection's flights, while
SkyWest, ACA, Chautauqua and American Eagle round out the remaining 28%.
Buttrell explained the contract carriers enable Delta Connection to expand its
reach and provide opportunities in niche markets, citing Chautauqua's 37-seat
ERJ135 and 50-seat ERJ145 flights in Florida.
 
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