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Delta cuts called bad for service

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ATLANTA — New Delta Air Lines Inc. staffing cuts will mean service changes for passengers on overseas flights, according to an internal memo.

Atlanta-based Delta, which recently cut employee wages and is slashing 7,000 jobs in a sweeping turnaround plan aimed at saving the airline, will begin the cuts Jan. 31. The flight attendant cuts referenced in the memo are part of the turnaround plan, which was announced in September after the company posted a second-quarter loss of almost $2 billion.

Delta operates a hub at Salt Lake City International Airport.

The staffing cuts will be on some of Delta's transoceanic flights. On the 767ER flights, which carry up to 285 passengers, there will be seven flight attendants instead of eight. Transoceanic 777 flights, which have 268-passenger capacities, will carry nine flight attendants instead of 10. However, Delta may add an extra attendant on full flights, the memo states.

"It's destroying the team concept they're trying to instill in all of us," said Al Corry, a union organizer and interim chairman for the Association of Flight Attendants in Atlanta. "We're extremely upset. The worst thing you can do to us is dispatch a flight short-staffed."

Corry, a Delta flight attendant, said the changes might include reducing the number of attendants who speak foreign languages on international flights and eliminating meal choices in coach to lessen the workload on flight attendants. There are about 6,000 non-unionized Delta flight attendants based in Atlanta.

The memo also states Delta will eliminate meals for flight crews beginning April 1. This is of less concern to flight attendants, Corry said, because it is a sensible move that follows the lead of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. It also coincides with a recent agreement reached between Delta and its pilots, Corry said.

Of more concern, Corry said, is a proposal to implement peer evaluations among flight attendants. Instead of meeting with a supervisor once a year to discuss performance, as is currently the process, flight attendants would be reviewed by two peers and a supervisor each month, Corry said.

"It's just another distraction while we are trying to do our jobs," Corry said. "It will pit us against each other. We don't actually have time to do that kind of silliness. We should be evaluated by our customers."

Delta spokeswoman Benet Wilson would not comment extensively on the memo, saying that it spoke for itself. The cuts keep Delta above the Federal Aviation Administration's minimum staffing requirements, she said.

"We're not cutting back on service or anything," Wilson said. "Most of our flights don't even serve food and snacks anymore."

On Monday, Delta shares slipped 13 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $6.49 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $2.75 to $13.