Delta Air Lines Inc. will cut systemwide capacity as much as 8 percent in 2009 and re-evaluate its staffing needs in response to grim demand forecasts in view of the “global economic recession,” company officials said Dec. 2.

Atlanta-based Delta, the world’s largest airline since it acquired Northwest Airlines Corp. last month, said the 6-8 percent capacity cuts break down to reductions of 8-10 percent in domestic and 3-5 percent in international, leaders said in a memo to the company’s 75,000 employees.

The memo, signed by CEO Richard Anderson and President Edward Bastian, said the company is evaluating how trimming capacity will affect personnel and “as in the past, we will offer voluntary programs to adjust staffing needs.”

The announcement comes after Delta said on Nov. 12 that 15 new international routes will begin by mid-2009, seven of them to Africa from Atlanta. 

That day, officials estimated that international capacity would be “slightly larger” than in 2008.

The Dec. 2 memo did not mention the new routes specifically but said that the company will “continue to … invest in and further diversify our international network in the Pacific, Africa, India and the Middle East to help mitigate the risk from specific regional economies.”

Since 2005, Delta’s strategy has been to reduce domestic capacity and expand international service.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...