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Airline Service Changes in Dane County?

Two more major airlines that fly in and out of the Dane County Regional Airport have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Both Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines have been hammered by heavy fuel costs, rising debt and stiff competition from low cost carriers.

Both carriers fly out of Madison, but so does United.

It has been in chapter 11 for several years and Dane County Regional Airport officials say customers haven't seen major changes.

"The consumers in most cases don't realize it when they're flying," says airport director Brad Livingston, "There weren't tremendous changes that the carriers invoked as a result of their chapter 11 filing."

Now the third and fourth largest airlines have filed for bankruptcy.

"That's about 25% of the capacity domestically," says Livingston.

Northwest mechanics have been on strike since August 20, after the union refused huge pay cuts and layoffs from the company.

And Delta, which has lost nearly $10 billion since January 2001, has felt a direct hit to its bottom line after hurricane Katrina.

But here in Madison, the airport director says customers shouldn't be alarmed.

"We are a key heartland market for Northwest and that also helps in any business decision that Northwest may make is that we're always a very protected market for them."

But could fewer flights leave passengers with their wheels on the ground? It is a possibility.

"Chapter 11 offers the opportunity for the carriers to redevelop their business and invoke measures to correct their business plan," explains Livingston.

All while fuel prices continue to rise forcing carriers to make tough decision on fare hikes.

Still Livingston says the airline industry should land on its feet.

"What we've seen with USAir and United is they operated in a very normal fashion on a day to day basis and I would expect that would be the same if any other further bankruptcies occur. Bottom line is it should be business as usual for consumers."

Both carriers say they will continue to operate with a full schedule.

Also Wednesday, Allegiant Air announced it plans to end its service between Madison and Las Vegas starting October 31.


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