(USA Today) -- Delta Air Lines is pulling the plug on its Comair regional subsidiary.
Delta made the announcement Friday morning, saying Comair will cease operations after Sept. 29.
The news comes after Delta has repeatedly downsized Comair over the past seven years. One of the most-formidable regional carriers in the world less than a decade ago, Delta says is now shutting down the operation because Comair's fleet of smaller regional jets have quickly become outdated and too expensive to fly in today's market.
"We just really couldn't get the cost structure to where we wanted to get it," Don Bornhorst, senior vice president of Delta Connection and a former Comair president, says to The Associated Press. "It ultimately was a cost issue; it wasn't a quality issue with Comair. They're a good airline, great employees, very innovative ... we just could not solve the cost issues."
Delta says the discontinuation of Comair's operations will not result in any significant changes to its network, "which has enough flexibility to accommodate these changes."
Delta, noting that Comair accounts for only about 1% of Delta's overall capacity, says, "There will be no disruption to customers and no significant adjustments to Delta's flight schedule or locations served. All customers who travel on the Delta network, whether on Delta Connection flights or mainline aircraft, can continue to make travel plans with Delta as they have in the past."
Despite Delta's assertion that the shutdown won't bring "significant" schedule adjustments to its already-downsized Cincinnati hub, the move will have a huge impact in that region.
Comair, headquartered in Erlanger, Ky., near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport -- has a major presence in the area. As of March, Comair operated about 290 flights a day -- most to or from Cincinnati -- and employed about 1,700.
About 1,000 of those employees are based in the Cincinnati metro area. The Cincinnati Enquirer says "it is possible some employees would be offered a transfer to Delta, while others could be absorbed by Delta's regional partners."
Still, local officials fretted about the impact.
"A lot of employees are going to be leaving (the area)," Rep. Sal Santoro, a Repubican member of Kentucky's state House of Representatives, says to the Enquirer. "I hope we can do something in (the Kentucky state capital of) Frankfort and not miss this opportunity to help."
The Associated Press says, "before entering bankruptcy in September 2005, Comair had more than 7,000 employees and 1,160 flights."
"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," Comair President Ryan Gumm said in a memo that announced the shutdown to workers.
"The quality of our operations has continued to be outstanding during our lengthy restructuring efforts, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead such a committed team," Gumm continued. "I am asking that each of you recognize the importance of remaining focused on safety and the job at hand as we continue operations throughout the wind-down period. Your continued commitment and your dedication to a safe and reliable operation is a testament to the professional team we have built here at Comair."