"We need to stop the Delta bashing. We need your support."
So spoke Fred H. Rollins, district director of marketing for Delta Air Lines Inc., Tuesday to the Board of Governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.He was invited to explain Delta's marketing procedures and air fares, a subject of media attention lately. Stories critical of Delta's fare structure prompted the airline to fly some Utahns to its Atlanta, Ga., headquarters two week ago for a briefing to explain Delta's pricing policies.
Last week, the Utah Air Travel Commission announced it would conduct a study on air fares from Utah to other destinations and not concentrate on any particular air carrier. Yan Ross, commission chairman, said preliminary results from the study should be available late this year.
"I take offense to the suggestion that our prices are too high," Rollins said. "I feel very comfortable on the way we are operating."
Rollins said air rates might seem high now because at one time they were very low and uneconomical for the airlines to retain. He said some of the companies, which at one time offered extremely low rates, recently announced they lost millions of dollars.
Before Delta merged with Western Air Lines in April 1987, Rollins said Western's lowest fares were $65 higher than those of America West, but now Delta is matching America West, fare for fare. He said in some instances premium rates are charged for non-stop service.
Rollins said Delta offers a wide range of full and discount rates and 92 percent of the Delta customers fly on discount rates. He said 75 percent of the seats leaving Delta's hub operation at the Salt Lake International Airport are from discount rates.
As an indication of Delta's impact in the area, Rollins said the hub operation is the third largest in the Delta's system, which has a $250 million economic impact annually in the area. He said the air line has $40 million in capital improvements completed or initiated, an indication of the air lines' commitment to Salt Lake City.
Wm. James Mortimer, board chairman and one of the people flown to Atlanta, said his perception is that Delta isn't treating the Salt Lake area any differently that any other hub operation. "I think Delta has been fair with us," he said.
Following the meeting, several board members were overheard to say the news media should quit beating up on one of the area's valued businesses.