08.30.07

Schumer Calls on New Delta CEO to Make Beleauguered Syracuse-to-Atlanta Route Top Priority - Stresses Time is Ripe to Upgrade Air Service That is Plagued by Soaring Fares, Smaller, Crammed Planes

Recent Service Cuts have Shrunk Daily Route Capacity from 630 to Less than 300 Passengers, Sent Ticket Prices Spiraling to as High as $1400, and Left Central New Yorkers Jam-Packed on Small AircraftAt Schumer's Request, Last Week Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, the MDA and Top Delta Management met in Atlanta to Discuss Improving Air Service Between Two Cities and the Overall Relationship bet

With Delta Air Lines this week announcing the appointment of a new CEO in Richard H. Anderson, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Anderson to make upgrading the beleaguered route between Syracuse, NY and Atlanta, GA a top priority as he settles into his new position. The current route between the two cities is plagued by decreased capacity and skyrocketing fares. The airline's recent service cuts between the two cities have left passengers frequently paying as high as $1,400 to fly on small, uncomfortable aircraft, and could potentially hamper Central New York's economic growth.

 

In a personal letter sent to the new CEO today, Schumer requested that he personally examine the route and pursue options that will improve the affordability and reliability of air service between Syracuse's Hancock International Airport and HartsfieldJackson Atlanta International Airport, which serves as a national hub for Central New Yorkers. Schumer also assisted in arranging a meeting held last week between Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, officials of the Metropolitan Development Association of Syracuse and Central New York (MDA) and executives from Delta Air Lines to discuss improving service between the two cities and improving the overall relationship between Delta and Hancock International Airport.

 

"I welcome Delta's new CEO Richard Anderson and encourage him to take this golden opportunity to close the chapter on the existing substandard air service between Syracuse and Atlanta that leaves passengers paying outrageous ticket prices just to be jampacked on crammed planes," said Senator Schumer. "Today I am calling on the new CEO to make improving the affordability and reliability of air service between the two cities a top priority. It's vital to Central New Yorkers and the region's economic revitalization."

 

Mayor Matt Driscoll said, "Delta has been a long standing service provider to the Syracuse airport community. The Atlanta service is extremely important to the Central New York business traveler.   It is our intention to continue the recent dialogue and communication with the new leadership at Delta to reduce the fare structure in Syracuse."    

 

"We had an open and frank discussion with Delta and made it clear that airfares between Syracuse and Atlanta must come down to a reasonable level," said Irwin L. Davis, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Development Association of Syracuse and CNY. "We continue our dialogue with Delta executives and expect to see positive results in the coming weeks.   If the current exorbitant fares and reduced service levels remain in place, the MDA will work closely with Senator Schumer and Mayor Driscoll to further address this issue."

 

Over the past several years, the quality and frequency of Delta service between Syracuse and Atlanta has substantially declined, leaving passengers with fewer options and higher ticket prices. In 2005, Delta operated 5 flights a day to Atlanta: four of the flights were served by MD80 aircraft which have a capacity of 142 people, the fifth flight was served by a 70seat flight regional jet, giving the route a total capacity of 638 people per day. Tickets were generally priced between $500600 roundtrip, a price that, while expensive, fit within budget for business travelers.

 

By 2006, Delta was operating 5 flights a day, but instead using smaller, less comfortable planes, which reduced the overall daily service between the two cities to 400 people. Today, Delta uses four 50seat regional jets and one 70seat plane to fly the route. This new schedule eliminated the one MD80 still making the trip and reduces the total daily capacity to 270 passengers.

 

Further burdening passengers is the fact that average prices for the route now ranges from $900 to $1400. Senator Schumer added, "It's absurd that the short flight between Syracuse and Atlanta can be more expensive than flying to London, Hawaii or Hong Kong."

 

In recent years, job growth in Syracuse has increased faster than the national average due to the strength of the region's budding technology, bioscience and financial services sectors. For many new and existing businesses flying, Hancock airport in Atlanta is a critical business destination.  A recent survey by the MDA found that 64% of respondents rated Atlanta as an "important" or "highly important" destination for their business. Located just minutes from downtown Syracuse, the airport serves 1.8 million travelers in a catchment area in Central New York.   Today, Schumer stressed the time was ripe to turn over a new  leaf in air service between Syracuse and Atlanta, arguing the new CEO should make upgrading the quality of service between the two cities a top priority.  

 

On Tuesday, Delta named Anderson, the former head of Northwest and a Delta board member, as its chief executive. Anderson, succeeding former CEO Gerald Grinstein, spent 14 years at Northwest, where he was chief executive, before leaving in 2004 for UnitedHealth. Previously, he worked for three years at Continental Airlines.

 

In June, Schumer called on outgoing Delta CEO Grinstein to reverse the cut backs in service between the two cities and work to provide Central New Yorkers with affordable, regular and quality air service to Atlanta. In his letter to the CEO Grinstein, Schumer wrote, "In recent years, the level of service between these two cities has decreased, the size of the aircraft flying the route cut back, and the fares raised. These cut backs represent an unnecessary burden to Central New York travelers and have limited economic growth in Central New York."



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