Originally created 02/17/99

Delta to acquire regional carrier



Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday it will acquire regional carrier Atlantic Southeast Airlines for about $700 million.

Both airlines provide service to Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field. The deal will not increase or reduce the number of flights they currently offer to the local market, spokesmen for the two airlines said.

Also, a company spokesman said no immediate personnel changes are expected.

Atlanta-based ASA will remain a regional carrier but operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta once the $34 per-share cash purchase, scheduled to commence Feb. 22, is approved by federal regulators.

Delta said the agreement helps the company grow. ASA, which is already linked to Delta routes through code-share agreements, said the deal will improve its customer service.

"In terms of the local markets, such as Augusta, it will be a positive," said Sam Watts, ASA vice president for sales and corporate communications. "Through this new, closer working relationship, we can better take advantage of Delta's efficiencies and financial strength."

ASA Holdings has 28.5 million shares of common stock outstanding. Delta owns 7.99 million of those shares.

In Augusta, the two companies are already working in tandem. ASA employees handle ground services for all Delta/ASA planes while Delta handles ASA's ticketing and customer service.

"Hopefully, passengers should see enhanced service out of communities such as Augusta with the improved operations and better utilization of aircraft and closer coordination of schedules," Delta spokesman John Kennedy said.

Atlanta-based ASA offers five flights a day from Augusta to Atlanta -- four on 66-passenger ATR 72 turboprops and one on a 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet.

ASA, founded in 1979, has operated as a Delta Connection carrier since 1984. It has a fleet of 88 aircraft with 2,673 employees based in 40 cities.

Local travel agents said they expect to see improvement in ASA service, though not anytime soon.

"(The acquisition) may help with their on-time performance, which has not been as good as Delta," said Donna Cagle of Westside Travel in Augusta.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.