Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that it will move its flight attendant training center, pilot training center, flight simulator facilities and some technical support teams from the Twin Cities area to Atlanta.
Early estimates are that a few hundred positions from facilities in Eagan and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will move to Atlanta, where Delta is based, an airline spokeswoman said. Jobs will be available for all the employees who are interested in relocating, Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson told employees Tuesday.
"During the last month, we have talked about rapidly rising fuel prices and added cost pressures as a new reality that is a permanent part of our business," Anderson said in a memo. "Therefore, we must permanently change our business to maintain consistent profits even in a permanent high fuel cost environment."
Delta has 12,000 employees and subsidiary positions in Minnesota, close to the state employee levels for Eagan-based Northwest Airlines in 2008, when Delta acquired it and became the Twin Cities' dominant airline.
In order to close the airport facilities, Delta must pay back $175 million in outstanding debt on a $300 million loan made by the Metropolitan Airports Commission to Northwest in 1992, according to Pat Hogan, a spokesman for the airports commission, which runs the Twin Cities airport.
By repaying that debt, Delta is absolved of promises to keep employees here - though the airline's agreement
to have a minimum of 360 daily departures still stands, Hogan said. Delta currently has 480 average daily departures, according to Anderson's memo.
"Obviously, it's regrettable that Minnesota's losing some jobs," Hogan said. "For the airport financially, it has little impact."
Anderson said in the memo that the transition is to begin this year and continue through 2012, though each division will have different timelines, based on business needs, to ensure a smooth operation.
Since 2009, Delta has reduced its facility footprint at 170 airports and 10 cargo locations across its system, saving more than $80 million annually, Anderson said. He noted that the company is aggressively trying to sell vacant buildings, including the former Northwest headquarters building in Eagan
"While we no longer require the MSP Training Center (formerly known as Building N), the Building C Tower and Hangars 5 and 6, we will continue to need the skills and capabilities of all our flight attendant facilitators, pilot instructors, simulator support employees, engineers and technical support employees," Anderson said.
As the acquisition was being planned, Anderson told Pioneer Press editorial board members and reporters that the Northwest pilot training center in Eagan would stay. Doug Steenland, then Northwest chief, said there would be "zero job loss" from Northwest at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a result of the deal.