The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Business

June 4, 2013

Delta to drop Memphis hub

Airline inherited hub when it brought Northwest

(Continued)

Other airports have suffered after losing hub status over the past decade. St. Louis was once a base for Trans-World Airlines. When American bought TWA out of bankruptcy it had more than 500 daily flights there. By 2009 that was down to 36. Terminals at Pittsburgh International Airport were abandoned after US Airways began winding down its hub there in the mid-2000s.

The wave of airline mergers has raised questions about the future of Delta in Cincinnati as well as United Continental Holdings Inc.’s hub in Cleveland.

“The only thing we hear from Delta is that they think we’re right-sized at this point,” said Brian Gregg, a spokesman for Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, another small Delta hub. In the 1990s it had 670 flights in and out; that’s down to about 170 now.

Larry Cox, the president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, said Delta’s reductions give the airport a chance to recruit other airlines. He said that Southwest is expanding there in the fall. “We’re looking on the bright side,” he said.

Delta’s Memphis job cuts are focused on customer service and cargo workers. They were laid out in a memo from Delta executives to workers on Tuesday. The memo said Delta would offer buyouts to some workers, and that there are other jobs available for those who remain.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, blasted Delta’s decision. Cohen noted that Delta CEO Richard Anderson told Congress in 2008 that the merger of Delta and Northwest would not impact flights in and out of Memphis and had even hinted at the addition of a Paris flight. “He said that the merger was about addition, not subtraction,” Cohen said.

Cohen said in a statement that he has reached out to the Justice Department “to discuss the growing evidence that Delta is violating the promises made to the Department when seeking antitrust immunity for their merger.”

Shares of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. rose 28 cents to close at $18.09.

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