Delta cutting international routes

Just as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport prepares to open a gleaming new international terminal next year, its flagship carrier Delta Air Lines is cutting back on international routes.

It's unfortunate timing that Atlanta's Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal will open as  international travel is on the decline, with Atlanta-based Delta trimming overseas routes amid high fuel prices and economic uncertainty.

Delta plans to discontinue several routes from Atlanta, including its route to Shanghai that garnered much attention when it launched with daily service in 2008. Since then, Delta has tried cutting back on the route and discontinued it in 2009. It then resumed the Atlanta-Shanghai route last year with just two flights a week, only to find that the route has still "performed poorly," according to Delta. That led to the decision to once again suspend the service as of Jan. 18.

The airline will also discontinue five other routes from Atlanta -- to Athens, Greece; Copenhagen, Denmark; Moscow; Prague; and Tel Aviv, Israel -- that it had earlier cut back to seasonal service but now will not resume next summer as previously planned.

The cuts are part of Delta's previously announced plan to cut its flight capacity by 2 percent next year, with much of the reduction concentrated in weak trans-Atlantic markets.

Delta said it will continue to fly to nearly 70 international destinations from Atlanta next summer and is "excited" about the new international terminal opening next year. The new terminal will "provide a great foundation for Delta's continued long-term international growth," Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter said.

Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Louis Miller said in a written statement that the international terminal is for expected "international growth for the Atlanta region over the next two decades," and airport management is confident Delta will grow in the future.

The airline also said travelers will still be able to reach all the cities by connecting through other hubs or on Delta's partner carriers, and it will assist passengers on the discontinued routes.

"We're hopeful that we'll be able to resume service in the future," Banstetter said in a written statement, "and we'll continue to look for opportunities to begin successful new international service from Atlanta in the future."

Several seasonal routes from New York will also be cut by Delta, including routes to Manchester, U.K.; Budapest, Hungary; and Berlin.

Meanwhile, Delta plans to start a new seasonal international route from Detroit to Paris next summer, and it is taking over a Seattle-Paris route previously operated by its joint venture partner Air France.