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July 15, 2011

Delta Drops 24 Rural Destinations, Asks Feds for Bigger Subsidies

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Delta announced Friday that it would discontinue service to 24 cities, most of them routes to rural cities for which the airline receives Federal subsidies. The airline also said it would be retiring its fleet of Saab turboprop aircraft and some of its 50 seat jets, operated by the airline’s regional affiliates.

Delta Connection Mesaba Airlines Saab 340 N453XJ at Fort Lauderdale FLL

A freshly painted Delta Connection/Mesaba Airlines Saab 340 (N453XJ) at Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Mark Lawrence) FLL

Citing a $14 million annual loss and load factors as low as 12% (compared to 83% for the airline as a whole), Delta said it has given the US Department of Transportation 90 days to find replacement carriers for the subsidized routes, in some cases working with other airlines to bid on the services. A statement also said Delta would be willing to continue some of them if the Federal subsidy is increased.

“While Delta would prefer to continue serving these communities, the new reality of mounting cost pressures faced by our industry means we can no longer afford to provide this service. As we continue to strengthen our business, Delta is retiring the Saab turboprops and some 50-seat jet aircraft, which will hinder the financial viability of serving these smaller markets,” Delta said.

The Essential Air Service program (EAS) provides subsidies for flights to rural areas that ordinarily would not receive any service due to their low profit potential.

Affected Cities

City EAS Subsidized Load Factor
Thief River Falls, MN TVF Yes 12.0% load factor
Greenville, MS GLH Yes 27.6% load factor
Devils Lake, ND DVL Yes 30.3% load factor
Watertown, SD ATY Yes 35.0% load factor
Muscle Shoals, MS MSL Yes 35.7% load factor
Fort Dodge, IA FOD Yes 39.1% load factor
Hibbing, MN HIB Yes 39.2% load factor
Alpena, MI APN Yes 39.5% load factor
Tupelo, MS TUP Yes 41.0% load factor
Jamestown, ND JMS Yes 42.1% load factor
Mason City, IA MCW Yes 45.9% load factor
Pierre, SD PIR No 47.4% load factor
Iron Mountain, MI IMT Yes 48.7% load factor
Sioux City, IA SUX No 51.4% load factor
International Falls, MN INL Yes 52.5% load factor
Brainerd, MD BRD No 52.6% load factor
Hattiesburg, MS PIB Yes 53.7% load factor
Escanaba MI ESC Yes 55.2% load factor
Aberdeen, SD ABR No 55.6% load factor
Pellston MI PLN No 58.5% load factor
Bemidji, MN BJI No 59.3%  load factor
Sault Ste Marie MI CIU Yes 60.0% load factor
Waterloo, IA ALO No 61.4% load factor
Butte, MT BTM No 65.3% load factor

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