Comair Announces Plans to Shut Down September 29

On Friday, July 27, Delta Air Lines management confirmed what had been rumored for months—that the company would be shutting down its wholly owned subsidiary Comair. On September 29, this once powerhouse of the regional industry will shut its doors, laying off more than 600 active pilots.

In May, the Comair MEC Negotiating Committee provided Comair management with a comprehensive plan for a new pilot contract, which included numerous cost-cutting proposals in a valiant effort to save their airline and their jobs. These proposals would have saved over $10 million in just the first year. However, the sacrifices and concessions proposed weren’t enough to persuade Delta management to keep Comair active.

The July 27 announcement apparently is the last in a long series of events that tested the mettle of the pilot group. In 2001, having been acquired by Delta Air Lines two years prior, the pilots went on a strike that lasted 89 days. Just four years later, Comair, along with Delta Air Lines, filed for bankruptcy and negotiated a new pilot contract that included deep concessions. In September 2010, Comair announced plans to park the majority of its 50-seat regional jets. This move would have cut the airline down to about 500 pilots by the end of 2012. Even this radical reconstruction of the airline wasn’t enough to save the airline long-term. This week, the Negotiating Committee will return to the table, not to hammer out a new contract but to discuss the closure and an equitable severance for the remaining active pilots.

Through ALPA’s Furloughed Pilots Support Program (FPSP), the Comair pilots will continue to receive assistance from ALPA, including admission to job fairs, employment opportunities, and unemployment benefit information. FPSP also sends out a Flight Path newsletter and has a website containing resources covering everything from stress management to finances.

“Every pilot at Comair has worked extremely hard toward a different outcome, and we are disheartened by the announcement,” commented CMR MEC chair Capt. Erik Jensen. “For years, Comair has been flying against strong headwinds—including an ever-changing industry, high fuel costs, and an increasingly competitive regional market. We are extremely proud of our commitment and sacrifices, but in the end, the company just couldn’t overcome the obstacles.”