Sunday, August 31, 2003

What's the buzz?

Comair adding planes, flights

As Comair's route structure continues to grow, so does its fleet.

The Erlanger-based regional airline now says it is on schedule to take delivery of 33 airplanes in 2003, making it the largest single-year expansion in the company's 25-year history. The company has also added nearly 200 flights and 11 new destinations so far this year.

"Certainly, the efficiency of regional jet operations have provided a pretty solid foundation for maintaining service and creating new market opportunities, and that has always been our mission," Comair spokesman Nick Miller said.

And while the expansion should slow down next year, Comair will still grow, especially since all eight airplanes it has on firm order for 2004 are 70-seaters. That would give the Delta Air Lines subsidiary 27 of the larger aircraft.

All told, Comair is scheduled to have 156 planes at the end of the year - it has taken delivery on 23 planes so far this year and currently has a fleet of 149 regional jets. Of those, 103 are the standard 50-seaters, 30 are 40-seaters and 16 seat 70.

"Having the ability to select between 40, 50 or 70 seats really allows us to target the right number of seats for the right flight in the right market at the right time," Miller said. "It increases our ability to be flexible to market demand."

Delta and Comair officials won't say specifically how the smaller airline is faring financially as the parent company continues to struggle. But privately, some company executives have said that the number of airplanes Comair has received is an indication of its profitability.

"We have been able to achieve a modest degree of profitability and we've been fortunate that we've been able to keep growing," Miller said. "It's still important that we continue to make the airline more efficient on the cost side and operation side."

James Pilcher

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