Chattanooga Airline Officials Say Delta Service Much Improved

Monday, May 19, 2014 - by Hollie Webb

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority Commissioner Lynda Griffin said Monday that Delta Airlines is "trying really hard to get back to their old reputation of being 'the passenger's airline.'"

After talks with the airline, CMA President and CEO Terry Hart said that Delta was fighting a perception more than actual problems with service.

He said, according to data, Delta has operated at a 98 percent completion rate in the Chattanooga market in recent months.

He said, "If you factored in the weather cancellations in January and February, it operated at 97.4 percent."

He also said that all airline companies had experienced increased flight cancellations over the past year because of new Department of Transportation rules.

According to the new regulations, customers cannot sit on a plane longer than three hours without the plane taking off. If the airline keeps anyone longer than three hours, the airline will be fined $20,000 per customer.

Because of this, airlines concerned about inclement weather often cancel flights altogether rather than risk delays and subsequent fines, Mr. Hart said.

Delta is also one of many airlines currently phasing out its 50-seater regional jets. Because of rising fuel costs, 50-seater aircrafts are no longer economical. Aircrafts seating 70 to 90 passengers are becoming the new standard.

President Hart also reported that some of Delta's customer service troubles had come from its partnership with ExpressJet Airlines, one of the largest feeders into its hubs. However, Delta has said it is focused on improving this.

Still, he said, "The attention has been placed on our market."

President Hart noted, "Since we've talked, we have not seen a cancellation in the Chattanooga market."

He also said, "There are many good stories that are going on in this community...The carriers just got out of a lot of down years and are finally back to profitability."

In addition to working with Delta, President Hart has also been in talks with United Airlines. He said, "It's a challenge but I'm going to continue to push on that. My target market will be New York."

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