Will service suffer with cutbacks at Delta, rivals?

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

(Updated 2:23 p.m.)

Delta Air Lines is doing what a lot of its competitors are doing to remain competitive: Cutting costs.

The main areas targeted are fuel, unneeded planes and staffing, with the last area most on the minds of airline employees in Atlanta and elsewhere.

Delta, the largest carrier serving Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and one of the metro area’s largest employers, reported that it took a $66 million charge for severance and other costs in the third quarter to cut staff through the early retirement of 2,000 workers earlier this year.  The announcement was part of its third-quarter earnings report.

According to Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter, CEO Richard Anderson stated during an earnings call  “that we do not anticipate furloughs.” Delta’s count of full-time equivalent employees – one FTE is equivalent to one employee working full-time – dropped to 76,626 from 79,709 in the third quarter.

Just last week, Southwest Airlines, the newest competitor in Delta’s back yard, announced it was reducing its employee headcount. CEO Gary Kelly didn’t provide specific numbers but told The Dallas Morning News the airline will trim its headcount next year through reduced hiring and attrition. Kelly also said there are no plans for layoffs.

Dallas-based Southwest last year acquired Orlando-based AirTran, the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson.  Kelly didn’t say how cuts would affect AirTran. Southwest will operate 30 flights from Atlanta this fall, while AirTran will operate 163.

With all of the cost-cutting and streamlining, it remains to be seen whether airline service will improve and whether travelers get a break on fares.

Delta came in No. 6 in the “meanest national carriers’” category of this year’s “America’s Best and Worst Airlines” list from U.S. News Travel,  behind No. 5 Southwest . The ranking comes from the 2012 Airline Quality Ratings report, which ranks the performance and quality of 15 major American airline carriers. The “meanest” was United.

How do you think things will shake out for travelers?

21 comments Add your comment


October 24th, 2012
12:18 pm

With fewer planes in its fleet, the airline needs fewer workers to keep them in the air, from grounds crew to flight attendants and pilots.

This is your answer, no net impact to the traveler.


October 24th, 2012
12:35 pm

The service is already bad.


October 24th, 2012
12:39 pm

If you look around at the airport as you travel you see a lot of the ground people standing around. Sometimes 3 gate agents with two working and one just talking. I am sure there are some that will dispute this but next time you travel look for yourself.

Paging the Pilot

October 24th, 2012
12:57 pm

I have a friend who is a pilot for a major airline and his schedule OFTEN shows he’s booked for take off BEFORE the first flight he’s on even lands…. I imagine this would cause a delay.

Ol' Timer

October 24th, 2012
1:01 pm

There comes a time where the service is so bad that it can’t get any worse, so the cuts are not discernible. I first noticed bad service, then it got worse, and then ti got worser and finally worstist and I don’t think there’s anything beyond worstist!!!


October 24th, 2012
1:18 pm

I had never flown Southwest before they came into Atlanta. I tried them out and in my opinion, their customer service and employee attitudes are night and day better than Delta.


October 24th, 2012
1:19 pm

Why do they need to make more cuts when they made a BILLION in profits? They could increase services or reduce ticket prices and still make a good profit.

Say what paging?

October 24th, 2012
1:22 pm

Paging the pilot… what are you talking about? Nobody “schedules” flights to leave before the crew is done with their previous flight. However, if you’re running late then that happens. And if you’re routinely late, then you’re routinely landing when you should be starting another flight. Happens a lot with busy airport later in the day with a 40 minute turns between blocking in and blocking out on your next flight.

But I’ve worked at 2 major airlines and have never seen scheduling like that.

Say what paging?

October 24th, 2012
1:25 pm

Why would an airline be any good if it outsources 50% of their flying to a multitude of regional carriers. Carriers are paid by the hour and share no risk, they’re revenue is guaranteed. But in order to win the contract they have to be he lowest bidder with some bidding nearly at cost.

You’d be stunned if the regionals weren’t allowed to fool you by wearing the paint scheme of the major carrier. If you could see how many different airlines there are you’d be stunned.


October 24th, 2012
4:06 pm

Travelers have become rude and obnoxious. It is hard for the airline emplyees to be nice when they are treated with little respect, both by their own management and the travelers. As a traveler, both business and pleasure, over the past four decades I have found it easier to deal with airline employees most of the time, while being aggravated by many rude men and women travelers. Parents with children are the worst. So, I avoid air travel.

Atlanta Mom

October 24th, 2012
4:18 pm

What service?


October 24th, 2012
4:34 pm

Travel is no longer about service. Service was gone when 911 happened. Airlines now are just the new bus system for the poor. The only way to expect service is to fly a private charter. People think the airline is there to pamper them and they are wrong. They are there for safety and control and not service unless you are a frequent flyer and go first class otherwise you are just a piece of cargo. Soon they will start charging a fee for being over weight. Extra weight makes fuel cost rise! Just saying ..


October 24th, 2012
4:52 pm


No, the planes engines can only carry a certain amount of weight. The more weight allocated to passengers and bags reduces the amount of revenue gernating cargo that can be carried. The more weight consumed by people and bags makes unit cost rise, not fuel. Fuel is a factor in unit cost but is not based on how much the aircraft weighs.

david c

October 24th, 2012
7:08 pm

Posting Billion dollar earnings wasn’t good enough.

Michael- Daytona Beach. FL

October 24th, 2012
7:26 pm

I just flew to Maine and VT using Delta and 32,500 skymiles, there were no seats on the flights going up or back, the planes were full.
Delta has always been my airline and will contuiue to be, Delta is the major carrier out of Daytona Beach where I live. I refuse to drive to orlando to flyu anywhere, rather go out of Tampa and I have on Delta.
Delta, should go back to its motto We Love to Fly and It shows, everytime I board never had a problem. I have no probelm paying for check bag either.


October 24th, 2012
8:39 pm

Why did this article fail to mention that Delta just posted its highest quarterly earnings ever as a corporation? What is all of this hometown cooking going on around here? Is it time to flee Atlanta? One has to wonder if this corporate misinformation keeps happening in Atlanta, if it will not just become a corporate shill city full of depression and sniping complainers mad at the world? Oh wait- it’s kind of already there, isn’t it? This isn’t the city it was 15 years ago- It’s corporate, it’s ruthless and it’s finding every way possible to destroy employees and the desperate nature of the employees lives scare them into going along with it…youch. Thanks, GW Bush for bailing out the airlines, they survived, bought each other out, reduced competition and put angry back in the once friendly skies. heh!


October 25th, 2012
4:59 pm

the job is a lot harder having to deal with all this rif raf on flights these days—-rude and demanding. I’m getting tired of this and may look for another job soon if the economy improves.

Love to Fly

October 25th, 2012
6:50 pm

I love Delta!!!! Best airline in the world!!! Clean planes and great customer service. On time record is always in the top! The airline staff I talk to love working for this company. It’s so refreashing to hear about an American company.

Love to Fly

October 25th, 2012
6:52 pm

Keep your head up and think about all of the people that are great! Make you smile and are friendly….lots more of us then the rif raf…I hope!


October 26th, 2012
4:57 pm

i love delta


October 29th, 2012
8:41 am

I’ve always found that if you greet someone with a smile you usually get one back. That seems to work with airlines, too. Although I don’t make it a habit as some surely do, if you greet someone with a sneer that’s probably what you’ll get back and again thats probably true when dealing with airline employees as well.