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Comair takes to skies again

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HEBRON, Ky. — As employees cheered, Comair returned to the sky Monday with its first flight since a pilots' strike shut the regional airline down for three months.

The task of rebuilding Comair from its first strike began with the departure of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Nashville, Tenn.

Company managers and about 100 employees were on hand to watch the jet's departure from the airport across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

"There it goes. That's a good feeling," Randy Rademacher, Comair president, said as a cheer went up from the crowd.

There were 19 paying customers on the 50-seat plane, plus 11 Comair employees who went along for the ride.

Rademacher said the airline doesn't expect to be flying with full planes for a while because of the strike and the slowed economy. Comair offered discounts of up to 60 percent to win customers back.

Inside the terminal, banners welcomed passengers back to the Comair concourse, and the lights were on again in restaurants that had been dark for three months.

Pilots ratified a new contract June 22, but flights couldn't begin until they had undergone required retraining.

Before the strike began March 26, the Delta Air Lines-owned carrier — the nation's second-largest regional carrier — served 95 cities from Maine to Mexico and carried about 25,000 passengers daily.

The airline is resuming flights from Cincinnati to 26 cities and hopes to resume service to more than 70 cities by Aug. 1.

One of the employees on Monday's flight was Susan Bauer, who handles overnight housing for flight crews.

"This is something I wanted to do — be on the first flight to show my support for the airline and say hi to the crew," Bauer said.