Delta ending service to Lansing, Mich.

Delta Air Lines is leaving the Lansing market at the end of August, taking more than two dozen jobs and nonstop service to Cincinnati with it.

The Atlanta-based carrier said Monday high fuel costs have forced its commuter unit, Comair Inc., to drop its three daily flights at Capital Region International Airport.

Delta said in a statement the exit is part of a move to reduce "select flights that cannot be profitable" because of the jump in fuel prices over the past year.

But Robert Selig, executive director of the Capital Region Airport Authority, which owns and operates the Lansing airport, said Delta's pending merger with Northwest Airlines likely played a part in the decision.

Delta's Lansing flights were 80% to 82% full, he said.

"We really have had a strong relationship with Delta," he said.

"What we've been told up until now ... was we were going to make it at least through the merger. But it looks like they decided to start the merger early."

Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said pulling out of Lansing had nothing to do with the pending combination of the two carriers.

Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest is the largest passenger carrier at the Lansing airport, with a 51% market share in 2007. Delta was the fourth-largest carrier at the airport last year, with 12% of the market. Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier Allegiant Air and Chicago-based UAL's United Express commuter service also fly from Lansing.

Twenty-six workers at the Lansing airport will be affected. Delta said in a statement it is working with those employees on options.

Delta said passengers with reservations after Aug. 31 will be offered alternatives or refunds. Once Delta leaves the Lansing market, the nearest airports it serves are in Flint, Grand Rapids and Detroit.

Selig said the Lansing-Cincinnati route won't be picked up by another carrier.

Delta has been in the Lansing market since 1986. At one time, it offered commuter service through two carriers. Erlanger, Ky.-based Comair operated flights to Cincinnati, while Atlanta-based Atlantic Southeast Airlines offered flights to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Delta and Atlantic Southeast dropped the Atlanta routes in 2007, about two years after starting service.

Selig said demand is high at Capital Regional International. But the airline industry is cyclical, and "we're just looking at a three- to five-year period we have to get through."

"The best thing we can do is keep our head above water," Selig said.

The Lansing State Journal is owned by Gannett, parent company of USA TODAY.

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