The US regional airline industry is poised to undergo further consolidation following Delta Air Lines' announced acquisition of partner carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA).

Delta's $700 million purchase of ASA Holdings will boost its share of traffic in the south-eastern USA, and consolidate an already dominant position at its main Atlanta hub. The US major already holds a 28% stake in the Atlanta-based Delta Connection carrier.

The ASA deal follows other similar regional airline acquisitions, including American Airlines' recent purchase of Reno Air and American Eagle's takeover of Business Express.


Delta says the ASA purchase was not influenced by other transactions, and is keen to stress that the deal differs from American's planned merger with Reno, which has led to pilot industrial action.

ASA will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta and, although flight scheduling will be integrated, it will maintain its own identity, retaining a separate 2,600-strong workforce and flying aircraft seating 70 or fewer passengers.

"This is not a merger into one airline," says Delta chief operating officer Maurice Worth. He adds that the ASA deal "-has no bearing" on the major's relationship with other affiliated carriers, including Cincinatti-based Comair, Skywest of Salt Lake City and St Louis-based Trans States Airlines.

Delta says instead that it decided to buy 20-year-old ASA after being presented with a "unique opportunity". ASA chairman George Pickett will stand down once the deal is finalised, while continuing to work as a consultant.

Regional carrier ASA flies to 57 destinations in 19 states with 88aircraft, and plans to move to an all-jet fleet with the introduction of the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet series 200/700.

Source: Flight International