It's not just Delta. On Wednesday, United, JetBlue, and US Airways announced new fleet cutbacks to deal with what this USA Today article pegs as a 30 percent rise in fuel prices in the past six weeks. And, American and Southwest "left the door open for capacity cuts or further slowing of their growth." The article details the cutbacks.
Most of the airlines are retiring older, less efficient mainline jets. Continental CFO even pointed out that the airline could seriously cut its fuel costs by retiring more than 60 of its less efficient planes by the end of 2009.
So what does this all mean for passengers? As our own Tim Winship said yesterday when I asked him about Delta's move, flyers in smaller markets may well be inconvenienced by the flight cuts. And, already shaky customer service suffers even more when airlines cut back on employees. As Tim put it, the danger is that airlines "will not only cut fat, but muscle and bone as well."