The future of Comair is uncertain as Delta Air Lines negotiates plans to reduce the number of 50-seater regional jets it operates which may result in the airline deciding to close the operations of its regional carrier.
Comair is in the final stages of the airline’s previously announced reduction in its CRJ100 and CRJ200 fleet, which will reduce the type fleet from 68 in September of 2010 to 16 aircraft by August 2012. The airline currently also operates 15 CRJ700 and 13 CRJ900 aircraft under contract to Delta. This was expected to be the Comair CRJ fleet numbers at the end of 2012, however according to various reports and rumours at Comair, this may be in question. Reports indicate that Delta, looking at all of its regional carriers, plans to remove 218 50-seat RJs from its regional fleet, leaving 125 in service. The plans are also to add 70 76-seat jets by 2015. These plans, in total, would mean that the Delta Connection fleet would shrink to 450 aircraft. Delta is also in negotiation with AirTran Airways to purchase 88 Boeing 717-200 during this timeframe as well.
Delta’s plans depend on its pilots union approving the agreement, which is currently under consideration in a vote due to be completed on June 29th, 2012. Delta will remove two 50-seat regional jets for every 76-seat aircraft added to its fleet under the plan, according to reports. However, in doing so, this plan would likely render Comair unviable as a carrier for Delta and would then likely be closed, or, Delta would have to enter negotiations with its other regional carriers to spread out the fleet reductions.
The majority of the 50-seat regional jet fleet operated by other Delta regional carriers is contracted through 2017 or later. Delta leased 12 CRJ700s that are owned by Comair to Trans States Airlines-owned GoJet through 2020 earlier in 2012. Delta did not publicly comment on its plans for Comair, but did note that it would not discuss fleet plans until after its pilots vote on the tentative agreement.
Comair was established in March 1977 and started operations in April 1977. It was founded by Patrick J. Sowers, Robert T. Tranter, David Mueller and his father Raymond Mueller in Cincinnati and began scheduled services with two Piper Navajo aircraft. Under its parent Comair Holdings, it became a public company in July 1981. The airline became a Delta Connection carrier in 1984 and in July 1986, Delta Air Lines acquired 20% of Comair stock and then acquired full ownership on October 22, 1999 at a cost of over 2 billion dollars. The airline began operations with the Canadair Regional Jet in 1993 and has operated all major versions of the CRJ during its history.