Comair hopes to soar like an eagle

By Joe Kay The Associated Press

ERLANGER, Ky. – With rumbling jet engines serving as background music, Comair workers celebrated their company’s emergence from bankruptcy yesterday, putting an uncertain future aside for the day.

Hundreds enjoyed an outdoor lunch provided by the regional carrier at its headquarters adjacent to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Employees hugged, munched on barbecue sandwiches and lounged in the grass.

“Today is a day of celebration,” company President Don Bornhorst told the workers.

Comair workers sacrificed $33 million in contract concessions to help the regional carrier emerge from bankruptcy yesterday, along with parent Delta Air Lines Inc. The airline cut jobs and other costs during nearly two years of restructuring.

“Now that we’ve done that kind of heavy lifting, we’ve got the hard work behind us,” Bornhorst said. “It’s only a matter of time before very, very good things start happening for Comair.”

The next step might also involve dramatic change.

Delta has indicated that it might sell Comair once it left bankruptcy. Delta also has indicated it could change the regional carriers that handle its connecting flights.

Senior Delta executives said yesterday that no timetable has been set on deciding whether to sell Comair. Some analysts believe it will be sold soon.

James Whitehurst, Delta’s chief operating officer, said “it’s not a foregone conclusion” that Comair will be sold.

Comair workers who have been through many tense days during the restructuring had the uncertainty in mind as they enjoyed their company-furnished lunch on a sunny, warm afternoon.

“The whole industry itself has changed,” said Glenna Wilson, 51, who schedules pilots for flight simulator training. “I think there’s a little bit of uncertainty, but today is a day of hope. We’re going to get a chance. That’s all we ever asked for.”

Associated Press writer Matt Reed contributed to this report.