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AIRLINES

Delta to cut more L.A. flights

July 04, 2008|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

In another blow to passengers who use Los Angeles International Airport, Delta Air Lines said Thursday that it would discontinue nonstop service between 13 cities and LAX, including flights to Seattle, Portland and Phoenix.

The flights to be halted are operated by ExpressJet Airlines under a contract that Delta said would end Sept. 1.

Delta and ExpressJet agreed to terminate the contract because of high fuel costs and declining demand, according to Delta.

The agreement does not affect ExpressJet's service at Ontario Airport, where the carrier operates under its own name.

The cutback in the regional service, which was operated under the "Delta Connection" name, will come on top of previously announced plans by Delta to slash about 13% of its flights at LAX including nonstop service to Boston; Hartford, Conn.; and Columbus, Ohio.

Together, they will be the deepest cuts so far at LAX, which has managed to escape the brunt of an industrywide move to ground flights as a way to cope with the fast-rising cost of fuel.

Delta, with 93 daily departures, is the fourth-largest carrier at LAX. That figure is expected to drop to about 60 by Labor Day.

Passengers can expect higher fares and fewer options as a result of the cutbacks, which could leave at least one city, Eugene, Ore., without nonstop service from Los Angeles International.

The service cuts also will bring to an end Delta's ambitious plans to expand at Los Angeles International Airport, turning the largest airport in Southern California into one of its major hubs.

With the end of the ExpressJet service agreement, Delta will no longer fly to such cities as Reno, Tucson and Boise, Idaho, from LAX.

Large carriers often use regional airlines such as ExpressJet to fly routes that typically lack the passenger volume to support the use of larger planes.

ExpressJet mostly operates smaller Embraer ERJ-145 twin-engine jets that hold about 50 passengers compared with the 150- to 400-seat planes that are flown by major airlines.

Delta said the service contract with ExpressJet also includes flights out of Salt Lake City, but the airline said it would sign a contract with another carrier to fly them.

Delta said it would provide a refund or re-book customers whose flights are affected by the changes.

Shares of Atlanta-based Delta rose 5 cents Thursday to $4.95.

ExpressJet Holdings Inc. of Houston fell a penny to 49 cents.

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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