Airline Profile: Atlantic Southeast Airlines

Atlantic Southeast Airlines was formed after Southern Airways, a local carrier based in Atlanta, agreed to merge with North Central Airlines in 1978. Atlantic Southeast Airlines was registered on March 12, 1979 and began service on June 26.


ASA

ASA’s first scheduled service consisted of daily flights between Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia, via a single, 14-seat Twin Otter aircraft. The airline carried 12,000 passengers its first year. Macon, Georgia, was added in 1980. By 1982, ASA was connecting 16 destinations.

ASA became a “Delta Connection” airline traffic provider on May 1, 1984; its flights were listed in computer reservation systems with Delta’s prefix (DL), leading travel agents to route Delta’s connecting flights to ASA. ASA’s net income tripled to $5 million in the first year of this new association. In May 1986, Delta acquired 20 percent of ASA’s voting stock for about $38 million.

ASA had operated a number of different types of turboprop aircraft since its founding, including the Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante and (for which it was the launch customer in 1985), the de Havilland Dash 7, the Shorts 360, and the ATR 72. Company executives had considered operating small jets for several years but rejected the idea due to fear of alienating their major airline partner. Finally, in late 1995, ASA began leasing five British Aerospace BAe 146 jets configured to seat 88 passengers each.

ASA wagered its fortunes on an even smaller jet, the Canadair Regional Jet built by Bombardier. In 1997, the carrier ordered 30 of these sleek, 50-seat planes.

ASA Holdings, parent company of Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., agreed to be acquired by Delta in early 1999. Passengers connecting from Delta flights accounted for 80 percent of ASA’s business. The ASA board agreed to sell the 80 percent of the company that Delta did not already own for about $700 million rather than watch its share values dwindle. ASA became a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta in May 1999.

A $4 million renovation of ASA’s Atlanta facilities was launched almost immediately; another $14 million in capital investment from Delta soon followed as well as acquisitions of new aircraft. In contrast to the slow expansion that characterized ASA’s first years in business, in 2000 ASA added 22 new markets and 18 new planes, lifting the fleet to 106 aircraft. Employment reached 3,500.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc. (ASA) is a leading regional airline based in Atlanta, Georgia. A subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, Inc. since 1999, ASA carries more than six million passengers a year, with a large portion of them making connections to mainline Delta flights. ASA operates 112 CRJ200 Regional Jets, 38 CRJ700s and 10 CRJ900 Regional Jets.