Delta's remaining wholly-owned subsidiary Comair today unveiled a major restructuring entailing slashing its fleet from the current 97 aircraft to 44 by the end of 2012.

Comair's decision to cut its fleet and adjust staff to support a smaller operation follow parent company Delta's sale of Connection carriers Compass and Mesaba to Trans States and Pinnacle in July of this year. Delta has explained owning those carriers is not core to making it a successful enterprise, and believes their sale will ultimately strengthen its balance sheet.

In a memo to Comair employees outlining the changes carrier President John Bendoraitis says: "Our current cost structure - which remains approximately 20 percent higher than our peers on a cost-per-block-hour basis - does not enable us to be competitive in the current industry environment. To secure our future, we need to demonstrate our ability to operate as a standalone entity."

Comair estimates savings of $110 million during the next four years as it times the reduction of its 50-seat jet fleet to avoid costly upcoming heavy maintenance checks and engine overhauls.



After shedding five aircraft this year, the carrier plans to stagger 50-seat reductions during 2011 and 2012, removing a total of 49 aircraft during that time. Comair plans to retire 19 Bombardier CRJs in 2011 and 30 in 2012, and by the end of that year its fleet will consists of 15 70-seat CRJ700s, 13 86-seat CRJ900s and 16 50 seat jets.

Timing of staffing level changes to support a 44 aircraft operation depends on specific departments, says Comair. Reductions in operational areas such as maintenance should be timed as aircraft exit the fleet.

"We expect the first round of crew furloughs to occur in the second quarter of 2011," says Comair. "In other administrative areas, we expect staffing reductions to occur over the next four to 16 months."

Additionally, Comair plans to start negotiations with its unions representing pilots, technicians and flight attendants to secure new competitive contracts.

Summing up the restructuring Comair plans to complete by year-end 2012 Bendoraitis says: "We must be able to earn a profit while reducing our operating costs to what the market is willing to pay for our services."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news