updated 10/4/2005 5:30:58 PM ET 2005-10-04T21:30:58

Delta Air Lines Inc., buffeted by high fuel costs in the wake of Katrina and Rita, said it is reducing its domestic flight schedule.

The Atlanta-based carrier isn’t experiencing a shortage of jet fuel, but is conserving energy, it said.

Delta spokeswoman Chris Kelly said it’s impossible to say exactly how many flights will be reduced because it will depend on travel each day.

The reductions will be minimal, though, affecting early morning and late-night flights that have low bookings, Kelly said. For example, flights are more likely to be cut on Tuesday or Wednesdays rather than on busier travel days such as Friday, Sunday and Monday.

Delta will notify affected passengers a few days in advance and will try to offer them choices about rescheduling flights, Kelly said. The company has no end date for the flight reductions.

International flights will not be affected since it would be harder to accommodate passengers with other flights on those routes, she said.

An airline industry expert said Delta’s move came as no surprise when other airlines also have been temporarily curbing flights. American Airlines on Friday announced that it was temporarily cutting flights from two hubs. American, owned by AMR Corp., cited high jet fuel prices, which were also blamed for a new round of fare increases.

“You want to save fuel to avoid higher costs in the future. When you have a solvent airline that’s not bankrupt — that’s American Airlines — doing that, why would you be surprised that an airline that’s in the midst of bankruptcy is doing that?” said Anthony Sabino, a professor at St. John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business in New York. “Delta has to get lean and mean ... This is what they have to do. This is the first wave, but it’s going to continue.”

Also Tuesday, Delta said it plans to fly eight new routes to Mexico as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plan, which includes boosting international capacity. The nonstop service would include flights from Atlanta to Acapulco and Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa; from Boston, Cincinnati and Washington to Cancun and from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa.

Delta, the third-largest carrier in the U.S., has about 4,500 flights a day nationwide.

Shares of the company, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 14, were unchanged at 79 cents in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Delta’s announcement followed one by American Airlines on Friday that it was temporarily cutting flights from two hubs. American, owned by AMR Corp., cited high jet fuel prices, which were also blamed for a new round of fare increases.

American, the nation’s largest passenger air carrier, said it was canceling 15 round trips temporarily from Chicago O’Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth international airports. Northwest Airlines also announced modest flight reductions.

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