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Drop in passengers forcing Delta base closure

/ Source: The Associated Press

Delta Air Lines is expected to move more aircraft to the Pacific Northwest to handle service to Asia as it continues to shuffle the departure points for its international flying to adjust its network to demand.

The world's biggest airline told pilots last week that its Boeing 767ER crew base at the Cincinnati airport will likely close sometime in 2010, barring a change in network strategy.

A company memo and a memo from union representatives to members does not make clear how that might affect Delta's service from that airport to Paris, the only international destination outside of North America that Delta currently serves nonstop from Cincinnati.

A spokeswoman said the Paris service from Cincinnati will continue, possibly by bringing crews from other bases to fly the route.

Delta also offers nonstop flights from Cincinnati to points in Mexico and Canada.

A crew-base closure in Cincinnati would affect 225 pilots.

At one time, Delta planned to add several international destinations from Cincinnati beyond the Paris service. But the memos say Delta's ability to flow aircraft out of larger hubs, the increasing emphasis on New York's JFK airport as an international gateway and the growth of New York's LaGuardia Airport as its primary hub in the Northeast have caused those plans to change.

A memo to pilots from Delta's vice president of flying operations says the airline is planning capacity increases from the Pacific Northwest to markets in Asia, most likely with the 767-300ER.

The 767-300ER is a long-haul aircraft. Delta has it configured to hold 216 passengers, and it says the plane can fly 6,565 nautical miles.

The Cincinnati airport remains a Delta hub, but service there has been significantly cut in recent years.

By January, Delta was expected to cut its daily departures at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to 190, down from 480 in 2001. The memo from the Delta official to pilots says Delta's current daily departures from Cincinnati number roughly 165-175.

The number of passengers using the Cincinnati airport dropped to 13.6 million in 2008 from 21.1 million in 1998.