Regional airline Comair said Thursday it will cut up to 650 more jobs, wages and its fleet to save up to $70 million a year as parent Delta Air Lines Inc. tries to reshape itself for survival while operating under bankruptcy protection.
Combined with job cuts announced earlier, the total number of jobs Comair is eliminating will be up to 1,000, or about 14 percent of its work force.
Pay will be cut for managers and other nonunion employees, ranging from 15 percent for Comair President Fred Buttrell to 4 percent for customer service agents. Comair will reduce its fleet of 174 planes by at least 11, and said it could remove as many as 30.
Comair likely will take more hits before the bankruptcy is over, said Anthony Sabino, a St. John’s University business professor and bankruptcy expert.
“Unfortunately, I think this is only the beginning,” he said. “Comair is an easy target for Delta’s cost-cutting. It’s a subsidiary, a stepchild.”
Comair spokesman Nick Miller said the final number of job cuts could be as low as 600, depending on the total fleet and service reductions. He could not say yet where the jobs will be eliminated, but said the carrier hoped to use voluntary departures and other means to reduce the impact on employees.
The company also said it will meet with union leaders on plans to reduce pilot costs by $17.3 million, flight attendants by $8.9 million and mechanics by $1 million.
“We’re seeking consensual agreements with them so we can avoid court-ordered adjustments to the contracts,” Miller said.
The union that represents flight attendants, Teamsters Local 513, was surprised when the company released the amounts it wants unions to cut because they thought Comair was going to talk to the unions first, union Vice President Connie Slayback said.
“We haven’t been given any idea of what they want in terms of cuts or concessions,” she said.
She said the union has been working on packages of voluntary concessions to help reduce costs.
A spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said Thursday that the union, which represents Comair mechanics, will meet with the company on Nov. 8.
“We aren’t going to comment or make any assumptions until we meet with the company,” spokesman Joseph Tiberi said.
Atlanta-based Delta said before it filed for bankruptcy last month it would trim service by about 25 percent at its second-largest hub, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky. Comair employs about 5,000 of its 7,000 workers at the airport.
“This is a Comair solution to a very tough problem that threatens the future of our company,” Buttrell said in a statement. “These changes, while difficult, are necessary in the current industry environment and are required if we are to emerge from our restructuring ready to compete and win.”
Delta and its subsidiaries, including Comair, account for 92 percent of the daily flights at the Cincinnati airport. Comair has 1,155 flights a day total, with 110 destinations, including Canada and the Bahamas. Its departures will drop to 903 daily in December.
Sabino said Delta could wind up selling Comair as part of its reorganization, and it could stay in business as a smaller, freestanding regional carrier. “Comair in the long run might be better off,” Sabino said.