Delta: Biggest travel declines at Detroit, Cincinnati airports


Delta Air Lines reported this morning that demand for air travel has dropped most at Detroit Metro Airport and at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

As the Atlanta-based airline reported its fourth-quarter results, officials said weakening demand is expected to continue in 2009 and said geographically, the company’s weakest demand numbers were in Cincinnati and Detroit, but would not provide specific numbers measuring that decline.

Ed Bastian, Delta president and chief executive officer of Northwest Airlines, said the industrial bases in Detroit and Ohio are contributing to the weaker demand. Delta and its subsidiary Northwest are the largest carriers at Detroit Metro.

“Michigan is in a very difficult place with respect to the economy, as is Ohio,” Bastian said, adding that the auto industry problems in Detroit are leading to lessened corporate demand as well as leisure travel of those who work for the auto industry.

“We’re trimming a little of Detroit, like we are in all of our markets. But we’re also adding some additional flights to Detroit,” Bastian said. “The Detroit facility is doing quite well … This doesn’t back down our commitment or investment in that facility.”

Delta expects to cut 6%-8% of its flight operations system-wide this year, and that is not concentrated in any particular region but more evenly spread out, said Richard Anderson, chief executive officer for Delta.

Delta reported a $1.4 billion loss for the quarter ending Dec. 31, including a $900 million charge for employee equity awards and a $91 million loss on fuel hedges.

However, the company reported it has $6.1 billion in liquidity at the quarter’s end.

For the year, Delta reported a net loss of $8.9 billion.

Delta officials said weakening demand and fuel costs hurt the bottom line in 2008, but again said they are positioned well to be profitable in 2009.

Delta’s stock plunged $2.14, or 22%, to $7.79 this morning in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares touched $7.50 earlier for their biggest daily decline since Sept. 8.