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Delta cuts 300 TIA hangar jobs

Most of the Tampa employees will be eligible for other positions with the company, primarily in Atlanta.

By BILL ADAIR, Washington Bureau Chief
St Petersburg Times
Published March 29, 2005


Delta Air Lines will announce plans today to eliminate 300 of the 350 jobs at its Tampa hangar in an effort to reduce maintenance costs.

The hangar will be used for repairs on the airline's ground vehicles and for overnight work on planes, but it will no longer be used for five-day overhauls of MD-88 planes, which had been the staple in the 21-year-old building.

Delta's announcement is a blow to Tampa International Airport, which lost more than 300 maintenance jobs when US Airways closed its hangar in 2002. Airport officials are hopeful they can attract an aviation company that someday will use one or both buildings for a Tampa operation.

Delta's Tampa plans are part of a broader effort to save $240-million over five years by hiring contractors to perform the "heavy" maintenance work that has primarily been done by Delta employees in Atlanta.

The airline plans to hire Avborne of Miami and Air Canada Technical Services to perform that work. That, in turn, will allow Delta to move the Tampa overhauls, which are not as extensive as the heavy work, to Atlanta.

Tony Charaf, the airline's senior vice president for technical operations, said most of the 300 Tampa employees will be eligible for other Delta jobs around the country, primarily in Atlanta.

Charaf said Delta needs to make the changes to remain competitive with other airlines that rely on contract maintenance.

"It really makes a lot of business sense for us to rationalize our capacity," he said.

Charaf said the contractors must meet the airline's safety standards.

"Safety will always be our No. 1 priority and will not be compromised," he said. "That was the most important guiding principle."

Louis Miller, executive director of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, said he was disappointed in the decision, but it could have been worse.

"As much as I hate to see what Delta is doing in Tampa, it's better than Delta going into bankruptcy and walking away from the hangar," he said.

He hopes to find a contract maintenance company to take over one or both of the hangars.

"It's a long uphill battle," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to get those jobs back to Tampa."

Delta, which carries roughly one of every five passengers from Tampa and is tied with Southwest Airlines as the airport's top airline, has been struggling to compete with low-fare carriers and avoid filing for bankruptcy. Delta shut down its Dallas-Fort Worth hub, restructured its fares and shut down two of its reservation centers. The company's pilots agreed to cut their salaries by nearly a third and gave up raises for five years.

Delta had announced in September that 1,600 to 2,000 maintenance employees would be laid off but had not said how many Tampa jobs would be lost.

The airline had tried a novel strategy to bring in extra money: performing maintenance work for other carriers. But that wasn't enough. Delta will continue that work when it can be profitable.

In a memo to maintenance employees to be sent early today, Charaf said, "Many airlines have already taken the steps Delta is taking today, and I believe many more will follow. Our costs must be reduced and we must remain competitive. In order to accomplish this, we must not stick our head in the sand and pretend that the airline business hasn't changed."
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