Delta to reduce Manila frequencies

Written by Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo
Special to the Business Mirror

Monday, 03 February 2009

DELTA Air Lines Inc. will keep the Manila route it inherited from its merger with Northwest Airlines, but reduce its frequencies.

Maria Schnabel, external publicist of the Atlanta-based airline, said: “Delta/Northwest plans on maintaining the [Manila] service from both Narita and Nagoya [Japan].”

But flight frequencies between Manila and Nagoya will be reduced from seven to five times weekly starting on Tuesday. According to Hiroko Tanaka, manager for Pacific corporate communications of Northwest Airlines, the Manila-Nagoya flights are now available on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while Nagoya-Manila flights are on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “The Narita-Manila flights remain daily,” she stressed.

Reductions are also imminent for Delta Air’s other Asian markets, Schnabel said, “to adjust to the new economic outlook and its effect on air travel. Other Asian markets will experience reductions in gauge or frequency.” The World Tourism Organization has projected international travel to grow between zero and 2 percent this year.

Continental Airlines and Hawaii Airlines are the other US carriers, which fly to Manila from Guam, and Honolulu, respectively.

Delta Air merged with Northwest in October 2008, with the former as the surviving entity. Complete integration of both carriers’ systems is seen lasting until the end of 2009. With the merger, Delta Air is now considered the largest carrier in the world.

About 6,000 jobs were cut after the merger last year, with Delta Air eyeing another 2,000 by the end of February. Delta Air announced last week that it would be decreasing its flight capacity to 8 percent this year by eliminating about 50 aircraft from its fleet. Travel demand is projected to slacken this year as the global economic crisis deepens.

Schnabel said the Manila office of Northwest, which Delta Air will takeover, is not expected to be affected by any ongoing staff cuts. “While full integration of Northwest into Delta will take time and will be completed through a thoughtful integration process over the next 12 to 24 months, Delta does not anticipate the need for involuntary furloughs of current Northwest employees in Manila as a result of the merger.” There are 200 employees in Northwest’s offices in Manila.

Pending the complete integration, Delta Air and Northwest will continue to operate as separate airline systems, with their own web sites, reservation systems and mileage membership clubs.

“During the integration period, Delta and Northwest will continue to operate their own branded aircraft until the integration process is complete,” said Tanaka.

For her part, Schnabel assures Northwest’s Philippine customers that “it’s business as usual, as we combine to create a premier global airline with a leading presence in the world’s major markets and a best-in-class loyalty program. We’re working hard to ensure that the merger is smooth, seamless and delivers even more benefits to [our passengers].”

She added: “Delta Air is very pleased with the current Manila-Narita and Manila-Nagoya flights. Besides Manila-Nagoya going to five times weekly, Manila customers should not expect major changes to the flight schedule or fleet in the short term.”

According to Delta Air’s web site, Northwest’s frequent flyer program called WorldPerks will continue to operate separately from Delta Air’s SkyMiles, but “will eventually be consolidated into one best-in-class loyalty program by the end of 2009.”

Schnabel said the merger is expected to boost Delta’s edge over other US carriers operating in Asia. “Delta is committed to growing our number one position in Asia [among US carriers],” adding that the carrier “has an accelerated timetable to implement network changes in the Asia-Pacific region. Most gauge changes will take place between April and June.”

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