Despite Bankruptcy, Delta Expected to Strengthen S.L. Hub

Despite Bankruptcy, Delta Expected to Strengthen S.L. Hub

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- As long as Delta Air Lines Inc. stays in business, its Salt Lake City operations should remain strong, Utah and airport officials said Wednesday.

Officials said they expected no scale-back at Delta's Western hub because of Wednesday's bankruptcy reorganization filing.

In fact, Delta is expected to go ahead in December with plans to add service to a dozen more cities from Salt Lake. Delta hasn't announced the new destinations yet, but confirmed the list would include Columbus, Ohio, as previously announced.

Delta means something else for Salt Lake: a major source of revenue for the airport. It pays $1 million a month in rent for use of Terminal 2, which it shares with SkyWest Airlines, plus $500,000 in landing fees, airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said Wednesday.

Delta, despite suffering staggering losses since 2001, has been paying those bills, she said.

"Delta is open for business as usual," Jerry Grinstein, the company's chief executive, said Wednesday in one of a series of statements issued by the airline to the media and government officials.

Grinstein said Delta will continue flying a full flight schedule and honor tickets, reservations and frequent-flyer credits. He said the airline will pay suppliers for goods and services and meet its payroll and job benefits, although Wednesday's filing allows it to pursue wage cuts. Delta has about 4,300 employees in Utah.

The Chapter 11 filing will give Delta some relief by allowing it to restructure its debt, Grinstein said.

"We can't predict what will happen in the long term with the airline situation, but Delta has expressed a lot of confidence in the hub out here," said Chris Roybal, Gov. Jon Huntsman's chief economic adviser. "As long as they have planes in the air, the hub ought to be a viable part of their Western operation. We anticipate that will continue."

Salt Lake is Delta's third-largest hub after Atlanta and Cincinnati.

In the worst case, other airlines would rush to take Delta's place in Salt Lake, where it operates 108 flights a day, officials said.

"It's a strong, viable market. We will always have healthy air service. It just may not be by a carrier that we recognize today," Gann said.

Roybal said, "We're one of the fastest growing states in the country, and the airlines recognize that."

Delta moves nearly 3 million passengers a month through Salt Lake airport, up 27 percent over a year ago, according to the airport's Web site.

The figures don't include Delta connections flying under different names, which give Delta 75 percent of the airport's market share, Gann said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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