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Delta expands operations in New York City

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Delta expands operations in New York City

Airline adding flights, recalling workers, upgrading terminal

Delta Air Lines will significantly boost flights at New York's Kennedy International Airport in a move to add muscle in the nation's top air market and compete harder against JetBlue Airways.

The Atlanta-based airline said it will add 29 new flights by September and recall 200 flight attendants and about 100 airport agents who'd been idled amid the company's financial slump.

Only two of the new flights will involve Song, Delta's 10-month-old discount unit that's based mainly at JFK. All other new routes and flights will be done by Delta's mainline jets or smaller Delta Connection planes.

Delta Executive Vice President Vicki Escarra said Song's limited role does not mean the airline is losing interest in the unit, which flies all-coach jets with a funky dayglo green paint scheme.

"Song is doing quite well," Escarra said, and was "mildly profitable" in December. "To grow Song right now would be too soon," she said, noting that it has already grown to 36 aircraft in less than a year.

Delta also said it will spend $300 million over six years to upgrade its terminal at JFK. The airline at one time planned a new terminal but shelved that project after 9/11.

The new flights, which begin in April, May and June, will boost Delta's capacity at JFK by 37 percent. The airline has said it expects to add 8 to 9 percent throughout its system in 2004, as traffic slowly rebuilds. The JFK buildup will be the biggest part of that.

JFK historically has been used mainly as an international gateway, with most domestic flights feeding overseas operations.

Delta hopes the buildup will augment both its trans-Atlantic operations at JFK and its presence in the crowded market for domestic travel in and out of New York.

"New York City is the biggest market in the world," Escarra said. "Delta intends to be a player and we intend to compete rigorously for our share of the market."

Some of the new flights and routes are served by JFK-based JetBlue, or probably will be. They include new service to Denver and San Diego, as well as additional flights to San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas. Other new flights go to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Delta Connection flights operated by Chautauqua Airlines will go to eight cities including Savannah, Charleston and Greensboro, N.C., routes that have typically involved connections through Atlanta.

The new Song flights will both be to Fort Myers, Fla.

JetBlue has been a post-9/11 success story with its mix of low fares and cheap chic service that includes leather seats, extra leg room and TVs at each seat.

Delta launched Song last year with 36 similarly-equipped Boeing 757s that it says will be retro-fitted with multi-media TV systems at each seat by April. The two compete heavily on New York-Florida routes.

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I wonder if Delta will add flights to other cities served by Jet Blue. JB just came to Boston. Its flight list is OK with service to FA and the west coast, and red eye to Denver. We also have delta and song. Delta is building a huge new terminal at logan that will have its own customs center for their international flights, so they won't use the new international teminal at logan.

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