Bradley International Airport will lose its only direct, nonstop service to the West Coast this fall, the first major blow to the airport amid a mounting crisis in the airline industry.
Delta Air Lines confirmed Wednesday that it plans to eliminate service between Hartford and Los Angeles. A Bradley official said service would stop Sept. 30.
Susan Elliot a spokeswoman for Delta, said the airline would try to reinstate the route on a seasonal basis, but could not say when.
Like all U.S. airlines, Atlanta-based Delta is struggling with record fuel prices. Elliot said the Bradley decision and all other Delta route changes are "absolutely, unequivocally tied to fuel at this point" and not related to the airline's merger with Northwest Airlines, announced in April and now in process.
Delta is Bradley's biggest carrier by passenger volume. The airline said earlier this month that it would cut service between Boston and Los Angeles in August.
Delta operates its Hartford-Los Angeles flight four times a week and has been serving the route for about three years. Elliot said Delta employs about 80 people at Bradley and that eliminating the Los Angeles flight would not result in layoffs.
So far in 2008, Bradley has lost service to Columbus, Ohio, and some seasonal destinations. On Sept. 4, it loses service to Denver that Frontier Airlines has provided since March 2007. Frontier is in bankruptcy proceedings.
Given massive retrenchment in the struggling airline business, Bradley could be in for more service cuts, airport officials said.
Long-haul routes — longer than 1,500 miles — appear to be in the greatest jeopardy because they require the most fuel, said Kiran Jain, the airport's director of route development.
Other long-haul routes served from Bradley include Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Juan and Amsterdam. Jain said none of the carriers serving those routes have revealed their plans.
"[Routes] have to be not just marginally profitable," she said. "Marginal doesn't work anymore, not in this environment."
Bradley has about 240 flights a day, including arrivals and departures.
The Business Travel Coalition, a Pennsylvania-based advocate for corporate air travel interests, cited Bradley Wednesday on a list of 150 large or regional airports "most likely impacted by fuel costs."
Criteria for selecting the airports, culled from an initial list of 250, included the extent of regional jet use there, past fluctuations in service, proximity to other airports, vulnerability to the effects of airline mergers and the mix of business and leisure travelers among airport patrons.
The coalition issued a report earlier in the week that outlines in general terms the catastrophic effects that "would arise if one or more large U.S. airlines failed." These include the loss of "tens of thousands" of airline jobs and the effect that would have on the economy, less tourism, disrupted supply chains, diminished tax revenues and less business activity overall.
"The failure of a single large airline with 15 percent market share would have huge local effects and substantial impact nationally, but multiple failures would be catastrophic and as impactful and demoralizing to the nation as a terrorist attack," the report said.
Amid the industry turmoil, some airlines are nonetheless trying out new routes. So far in 2008, airlines have announced new seasonal service from Bradley to Memphis, Tenn., and to Cancun, Mexico.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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