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Hubs, routes and other merger questions answered

This morning's press conference on the Delta-Northwest merger offered some more details about what the merger—which, pending regulatory approval and a pilots' agreement, is scheduled to close in six to eight months—will mean for service and routes.

Here's a brief rundown of topics likely to affect passengers:

  • No hub closures: At least for now, the airlines have determined their hubs to be complimentary. Since each hub is already sized to be profitable and the demand is strong, hub closures won't be part of the merger.
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  • Regional carriers will be "optimized": When Delta and Northwest merge, they will have a combined fleet of 600 regional planes from airlines including Mesaba, Compass, and Comair. The new airline will "optimize the number of carriers" and where they operate.
  • Some capacity cuts: Individually, Delta and Northwest (along with other airlines) have already announced capacity cuts. Delta has said it would cut capacity 10 percent over last year, and Northwest announced a 5 percent cut in domestic capacity. However, both CEOs said this merger isn't predicated on capacity cuts.
  • No involuntary layoffs: Among frontline employees, there won't be any furloughs. However, there was a mention that there might be some kind of voluntary layoff program for employees in positions where there would be overlap after the merger, for instance in some administrative and management positions. But if too few people volunteer to leave their jobs, involuntary layoffs seem the likely next step.
  • New planes on the horizon: Between the two airlines, there are 80 airplanes set to be delivered over the next five years.
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