Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Comair closing Orlando hub

Airline focusing on business travelers

By James Pilcher, jpilcher@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Comair on Monday said it would close its Orlando hub this fall as the regional airline removes itself from the leisure-based Florida market and concentrates on business travelers.

        The Erlanger-based subsidiary of Delta Air Lines also said it would be moving its pilot and flight attendant bases from Orlando to Dallas within the next year.

        “This is kind of bittersweet for us, because Orlando has been such a key part of our operation for such a long time,” said Comair president Randy Rademacher, whose company opened the Florida hub in 1987. “But we had to reallocate our assets — and what we do best — to markets best situated for us.”

        Comair employs about 400 at its Orlando hub, and Mr. Rademacher said about 150 pilots and flight attendants were being encouraged to transfer, especially since the airline is expected to receive 60 new planes in 2002-03.

        Other employees such as mechanics and customer service workers will keep their current jobs, Mr. Rademacher said.

        Delta Connection president and chief executive officer Fred Butrell said Comair will expand its presence in the Dallas market early next year.

        In fact, Comair plans a hub in Dallas, which also is served by Delta Connection carriers Atlantic Southeast and Utah-based SkyWest.

        Taking Comair's place in Florida will be Indianapolis-based carrier Chautauqua Airlines, announced Monday as the fifth member of Delta Connection, Atlanta-based Delta's regional network.

        Chautauqua is a separately owned company, and its holding company, Republic Airways Holdings, is planning an initial public offering before the end of the year.

        It will replace Comair's 50-seat Canadair regional jet and the 37-seat Embraer Brasilia turboprop (which will be retired in September) with 30-seat regional jets made by Brazil-based Embraer.


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