Delta to shift flights at Cincinnati hub

CINCINNATI (AP) - Delta Air Lines Inc. plans to shift operations in January from one of its three concourses at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to the remaining two.

Delta said Tuesday that it will close operations at Concourse C to improve passenger convenience - a move that also will eliminate the need for shuttle service between Concourses B and C.

Atlanta-based Delta earlier announced it would cut flights at the Cincinnati hub this fall by about 25 percent compared with the same time last year, to help fight high fuel prices. Flights for the fall schedule will be reduced from an estimated 400 flights to 115 destinations on peak days in November 2007 to about 300 flights to 93 destinations.

"Fuel is a challenge to all the airlines and all the airports in which we fly," said Don Bornhorst, senior vice president of Delta Connection, which coordinates the regional carriers feeding into Delta. "The reductions that you see here in Cincinnati are actually a reflection of the reductions we have seen at other places in our system, especially in the Midwest."

The Air Transport Association trade group expects U.S. airlines to spend $61.2 billion this year on fuel, up from $41.2 billion last year. Bornhorst said the flight shifts would not affect any Delta jobs at the Hebron, Ky.-based airport near Cincinnati. He said Delta remains committed to the airport as a hub - the airline's second largest after Atlanta.

When officials looked at fall schedule reductions, they decided they could concentrate operations in Concourses A and B, where passengers will have improved access to covered boarding areas and conveniences such as kiosks. Delta has begun work with the airport to add at least 11 passenger loading bridges that eventually will eliminate ground-level boarding of Delta Connection flights over the next two to three years.

Employees of Delta subsidiary Comair who work at Concourse C will be moved to the other two concourses, said Comair spokesman Kate Marx. She said Comair has about 1,200 employees working at Concourses A and C in operations such as boarding of flights and baggage handling.

Marx declined to say how many employees would be moved.

Delta's lease on Concourse C, which doesn't expire until 2025, allows other airlines to use the concourse gates. Airport spokesman Ted Bushelman said the airport is constantly talking with other carriers, but noted that the aviation industry is going through a difficult time.

"With this economy and the price of fuel, things are not very good for the industry, and a lot of low-cost carriers are cutting back," Bushelman said.

 (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)