Regional airline grounded: Comair plans to cease operations

"We believed this announcement would have a negative impact on Comair because we operate some of the oldest 50-seat aircraft in the Delta Connection fleet, which also have the highest unit cost per flight hour," Gumm continued. "In fact, Delta has decided to remove the remaining 16 Comair 50-seaters from the Delta network, leaving Comair with only 28 aircraft in scheduled service.  This further reduction of Comair's active fleet will only create higher unit costs, which equates to a business model that is no longer sustainable in this competitive regional environment."

Delta Vice-President Don Bornhorst said the company was shifting its focus to "mainline" flights operated by the airline itself.

"While regional flying has and will remain a key component of Delta's network, customer expectations and the unit costs of regional flying have evolved," he said in a statement. "In response, Delta recently announced its plans to reduce the total number of regional jets in its network while adding more mainline flying. This includes reducing the number of 50-seat regional jets from nearly 350 aircraft to 125 or fewer in the upcoming years.  As a result of this reduction and changes to its customer-focused business strategy, Delta has made the difficult decision to cease Comair's operations."

Delta said the discontinuation of Comair's flight service "will not result in any significant changes to Delta's network, which has enough flexibility to accommodate these changes."  

Bornhorst told Comair employees that the decision was "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," he said.

"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," he said.  "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."

Statistics released this week by the Department of Transportation showed Comair had 1,577 full-time employees as of May 2012.  

The airline had as many as 5,902 employees in 2008, according to the DOT.