ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines, faced with a weak economy, dimming hopes of a combination with Northwest Airlines and record fuel prices that are eating up profits, said Tuesday it will offer voluntary severance payouts to roughly 30,000 employees — more than half of its work force — and cut U.S. capacity by an extra 5 percent.
Executives at Atlanta-based Delta said in a memo to employees that the airline's goal is to cut 2,000 frontline, administrative and management jobs through the severance program, attrition and other initiatives.
Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said the company would accept more job cuts if more employees than sought take the voluntary severance. The severance program will not affect Delta pilots, who have a union contract with the company.
One part of the program is for employees who are already eligible for retirement or those whose age and years of service add up to at least 60, with 10 or more years of service. The other part of the program is an "early-out" offer for frontline employees — such as flight attendants and gate and ticket agents — with 10 or more years of service and for administrative and management employees with one or more years of service.
The memo from chief executive Richard Anderson and president Ed Bastian did not mention Delta's talks with Northwest Airlines Corp. about a combination that would create the world's largest airline.
"We're focused on addressing our challenges," Bastian said. "We're moving quickly. We're focused on performance."
Bastian said Delta will continue to grow internationally. The airline said that this summer more than 40 percent of its capacity will be dedicated to international flying, where it can get better premiums on ticket prices. Delta plans to increase international capacity by more than 15 percent this year.
At the same time, it expects to reduce domestic capacity by 10 percent by August, 5 percent more than under its previous business plan.
Also Tuesday, United Airlines said it plans to ground as many as 20 airplanes, or 4 percent of its fleet, and further cut capacity in 2008 to soften the blow of oil prices that could add $1-billion to its fuel tab over last year.