Delta downsizes Cincinnati operations again

CINCINNATI — Delta Air Lines said Tuesday it plans to reduce operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Regional Airport from two concourses to one and take over the functions of a subsidiary that now provides ground-handling services at the airport.

The changes could lead to layoffs for 840 Regional Elite Airline Services employees that handle ground operations such as gate, ticket counter and ramp duties for Delta Connection carriers.

All flight operations for Delta and Delta Connection flights handled at Concourses A and B will be shifted to Concourse B, Delta said in a memo sent Tuesday to Cincinnati-based employees. Delta closed a third concourse in 2008.

The changes take place May 1 and will not change Delta's previously announced plans to operate 160 to 170 flights a day from Cincinnati this summer, said Gil West, senior vice president of airport customer service for Delta.

The switch from Regional Elite Services is another step to try to return Delta's Cincinnati hub to profitability, West said.

The 50 gates Delta now operates at the airport will be cut to 28 with the consolidation to one concourse, Delta spokeswoman Kristin Baur said.

Delta will increase operational staffing at the airport. "On the airport customer service side combined with our Cincinnati reservation centers, we'll have approximately 100 we will be hiring," Baur said.

Regional Elite employees interested in those positions will get preferential consideration, and Delta will offer separation packages and transfers to other airports, Baur said.

Airport officials said they were still assessing the impact of the latest of several downsizings over the past few years at Delta's Cincinnati hub.

"The announcement released today by Delta Air Lines to consolidate its operations in Concourse B and resulting job layoffs is very disheartening to the airport and the tri-state community," John Mok, the airport's chief executive officer, said in a statement released Tuesday.

In Lexington, Blue Grass Airport spokeswoman Amy Caudill noted passengers from the airport here are already beginning to connect more often through alternate Delta hubs like Detroit and Memphis rather than Cincinnati.

"This effect is not unique to the Lexington area and communities our size throughout the Midwest are experiencing," she said. "Changes such as this remind us of the value and importance of supporting our local airports."