Delta Air Lines Inc., the third-largest U.S. carrier, said Friday that 4,000 employees have taken voluntary buyouts, double the number it initially targeted and an increase from the total announced two weeks ago.

The airline said May 30 that 3,000 workers had accepted the severance offers, and since then, 1,000 more people have agreed to leave the Atlanta-based company, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said.

Delta plans to cut as much as 11 percent of U.S. seating capacity and park 90 planes and regional jets to shrink operations after fuel costs doubled in the past year. The company initially targeted 2,000 jobs.

Delta said June 6 that it would have second-quarter costs of $95 million for eliminating jobs and $8 million for closing airport facilities related to its cutbacks.

Lynn Zingleman, 57, a Delta ramp worker at the Salt Lake City International Airport, said he had decided to take the buyout.

"It was a pretty hard decision," said Zingleman, who has worked for 34 years for Delta and Western airlines. "I had to look at the benefits I had through my wife, how we were set up financially and a number of things."

Zingleman loads and unloads luggage off planes. He began his career in Minneapolis and transferred to Salt Lake City years later.

Zingleman had planned on retiring between ages 60 and 62, but when the buyout offer was presented to Delta employees, Zingleman figured it was an opportunity to get some money.

With the financial struggles the airline industry is experiencing, "I thought this may be my only chance as far as an early-out," he said.

Zingleman's wife retired two years ago. The couple plans to stay in Utah to be close to their children. Zingleman plans to hunt, fish, ride his motorcycle and travel. He'll be able to continue to use his discount travel benefits during retirement. Recently, he used low-cost airfare benefits for a camping trip in Manitoba.

As for his last day of work, "I put it off as late as possible, so it'll be the first of November," he said.

Zingleman said a handful of ramp workers have opted to take the buyouts. "What surprised me is there were a lot of younger, low-seniority people that took it.

"I think a lot of them felt the airline industry wasn't going to be what they thought it was going to be (when they began their careers)," Zingleman said. "There's not much of a future in it. They thought that it's time to start new careers, go different directions."

In Salt Lake City, where Delta has a hub and employs about 3,500, the number of employees who have taken buyouts has not been announced, Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents Delta's pilots, did not return a phone call to the Deseret News on Friday about how many pilots in Salt Lake City are taking buyouts.

The biggest U.S. airlines have trimmed 10,300 jobs since the end of May. More are coming when AMR Corp.'s American Airlines gives specifics on its plans to cut "thousands" of positions.

UAL Corp.'s United Airlines plans to eliminate 1,600 management jobs and an unspecified number of union positions. Continental Airlines Inc. intends to cut 3,000 jobs, and US Airways Group Inc. said Thursday that it will trim 1,700.

American, United, Delta and Continental, the four largest U.S. carriers by passenger traffic, have announced U.S. capacity cuts of 10 percent or more at the end of the year as they struggle to cope with soaring fuel costs and lower demand.

Delta in April agreed to a merger with Northwest Airlines Corp., based in Eagan, Minn., that would form the world's largest carrier, surpassing American. The value of the all-stock Northwest acquisition has fallen by half to $1.83 billion since the deal was announced on April 14.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com