Comair to cut hundreds of pilot, attendant jobs

CINCINNATI — Regional airline Comair said Tuesday that it expects to cut about one-fifth of its pilots and flight attendant jobs beginning this fall as part of parent Delta Air Lines Inc.'s overall cost reductions in response to high fuel costs.

Erlanger-based Comair announced in January that it will ground up to 14 of its 50-seat jets this year and fly fewer hours as part of Delta's cuts. Comair has said that it plans $35 million in cuts this year.

The airline already has reduced non-crew staff members since the beginning of the year by more than 6 percent, and Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said Tuesday that the pilot and flight attendant staffing also will have to be adjusted with the grounding of the 14 planes by year end.

”We are still operating those aircraft during the summer based on customer demand, but our flight schedule changes dramatically in September,“ Marx said Tuesday.

Officials at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport say they have not heard of any plans by Comair to cut service there.

”We do have Comair serv­ice, but they're going to cut out their unprofitable routes first,“ airport spokesman Brian Ellestad said. ”From what we've heard from Delta, yes, they are pleased with our market.“

Blue Grass Airport has 2.2 percent more seats for commercial airline passengers for November 2008 than it had in November 2007. This compares to an 8.1 percent decrease in seats nationwide for November 2008 versus November 2007, Ellestad said.

Comair said its initial estimate for the planned job cuts is 300 pilot positions and 220 flight attendant positions. Com­air has 1,477 pilots and 940 flight attendants.

Comair President John Selvaggio said in the memo to employees Monday that he has met with representatives of the flight attendants and pilots unions to begin talks on ways to lessen the impact on the flight crews.

”As we have done with other work groups, we will do everything possible to provide voluntary choices for our affected pilots and flight attendants,“ Selvaggio said.

Union leaders say they are discussing options with the company, such as voluntary furloughs and early retirement packages to avoid layoffs.

”The need for reduction in jobs is unfortunate, but we are trying to lessen the negative impact by creating voluntary options,“ said Connie Slayback, president of Local 513 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that represents Comair flight attendants.

She said the union also has increased the number of part-time positions allowed for flight attendants from 100 to 300.

Comair's main hub is at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Delta has 6,300 employees and operates 669 flights a day to 86 U.S. and Canadian cities.