The September 11th attack
Delta, Air Canada also cutting back
Advertiser Staff and News Services
Still reeling from a plunge in travel after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon, more airlines in the United States and abroad slashed their flight schedules and eliminated thousands of jobs yesterday to weather the crisis.
Delta Air Lines, in joining nearly all of the other major U.S. carriers in scaling back, said it would cut its schedule 15 percent by Nov. 1 and jettison 13,000 jobs over the next several months.
Air Canada announced it would reduce its schedule 20 percent and lay off 5,000 employees.
Scandinavian Airlines System the biggest operator in its region said it plans to shave capacity 12 percent and eliminate up to 1,100 jobs.
Other U.S. airlines have announced about 80,000 job cuts since Sept. 11, including American, United, Northwest, Continental and US Airways.
Still, Hawai'i continues to brace for the possible impact of the cuts on its routes and airline workers. Little information has been available as the major carriers continue to assess capacity. Many airlines are expected to announce their new seasonal schedules Monday. Others may release new schedules near the middle of October.
To date, the number of airline seats on flights into Hawai'i is at roughly 95 percent of the usual level for this time of year, said Continental Airlines representative Ron Wright. "But that's not sustainable at 65 percent load factors," he said.
Yesterday, officials with American Airlines said the carrier has decided to eliminate one of its three daily flights to Honolulu from Los Angeles, but they could not immediately say when the cut would take effect or how many employees here might be affected.
Air Canada, which has several flights to the Islands, said the list of routes being cut was not immediately available.
Northwest Airlines, which has six flights to and from Honolulu from the Mainland and Japan each day, has decided to cut 340 flights worldwide as part of a 20 percent total schedule reduction.
Northwest employees had not been notified of all the changes by yesterday and company officials declined to say whether Hawai'i would be affected by flight reductions or layoffs. The company has not completely abandoned any cities it has served, however.
"We will continue to evaluate all markets we serve and be closely watchful of how demand returns," Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said.
Northwest flights now have an average occupancy of about 50 percent, compared to 75 percent at this time last year, he said.
"We're seeing demand come back slightly but we need that to continue," Ebenhoch said.
In announcing its reductions yesterday, Delta said it also trimmed capacity by 15 percent, reporting that its planes are only about a third full on most flights. The five Delta flights to Hawai'i were not included in those cuts.
Delta has 210 employees based in Hawai'i. The company will not be able to determine where layoffs will be made until after seeing how many employees opt for the voluntary leave or severance.
Because of the decline in air travel, the world's airlines expect to lose at least $7 billion this year, in large part because of fallout from the terrorist attacks.
British Airways is trimming its schedule by 10 percent and eliminating 7,000 jobs. Another trans-Atlantic carrier, Virgin Atlantic Airways, lopped 1,200 of its 9,000 employees as it reduced its schedule 20 percent.
Alitalia, Italy's national airline, is scaling back its operations because of a projected 14 percent drop in passenger traffic over the next six months. The pullback will mean 2,500 lost jobs.
The trans-Pacific airlines are faring no better.
"The flights out of Japan to the United States have been less than half full," said Thomas Fredo, a spokesman for Japan's All Nippon Airways in New York. "Many Japanese are postponing their travel plans because it's a time of uncertainty."
All Nippon Airways said flights from the United States back to Japan are a little more crowded, but that's because "a lot of Japanese were here before Sept. 11 and many of them have been returning" in just the past few days, Fredo said.
For its Hawai'i routes, Millie Takesue, All Nippon's vice president and general manager in Honolulu, said: "We're uncertain at this time."
Officials with Japan Airlines could not be reached yesterday.
Advertiser staff writers Johnny Brannon, Andrew Gomes and Michele Kayal contributed to this report.