The airline plans to move as many as 66 workers to its home base in Atlanta but said it's still committed to keeping jobs in Minnesota.
A Delta Airlines maintenance crew worked on the rear of a Delta jet Wednesday, February 29, 2012 in front of Building C where some of the warehouse operations are located. Delta Airlines announced it was moving its warehouse operations to Atlanta taking as many as 150 jobs there.
In a memo to employees Wednesday, the Twin Cities' largest carrier said it is consolidating its warehouse operations into one facility in Atlanta, where it is based. Local employees who stock parts for Delta aircraft can either transfer to Atlanta or apply for other jobs at MSP or Delta. The warehouse employs about 150 people.
"Although we no longer require the MSP stores warehouse facility, we will continue to need the skills and capabilities of all our stores employees," said Theresa Keaveny, Delta's managing director of materials and planning.
Since Delta acquired hometown carrier Northwest Airlines in 2008, all eyes have been on the carrier to see whether it would maintain its robust Minnesota presence. Delta says it is responsible for the employment of 12,500 people in Minnesota, but the airline won't say how many of those are Delta workers.
The company will determine seniority and decide who qualifies to be transferred by April 16. The facility will close a month later.
"Few employees imagined they would now be faced with either layoff or uprooting" to Atlanta, said Blue Notes Newsletter-Online, a Facebook page created by workers who want to restart a union at Delta.
Delta notified workers in January that it could shut the operation. The airline said moving to a single warehouse operation will save money by improving efficiency and productivity. It declined to disclose the cost savings of shuttering the local unit.
Delta said Wednesday that it remains committed to keeping jobs in Minnesota. It also plans to keep its aircraft maintenance services at MSP because it'll still have parts on site at the airport.
"The Twin Cities are very important to Delta, and we will continue to support our people who live and work in these communities and the customers we serve every day," Delta said in a statement. "The hub is strong, secure and is a critical part of Delta's domestic and international network."
But the development troubles some state officials, who said Delta is breaking its commitment to keeping jobs in Minnesota. In the fall, the airline paid off a loan to the Metropolitan Airports Commission, freeing it from its obligations to have at least 10,000 employees in the state. At the time, Delta said it didn't plan to move more workers to its Atlanta hub.
"I'm very sorry to hear that Delta has decided to relocate these jobs from MSP to Atlanta," said Sen. Al Franken, who said he has urged Delta to protect these jobs.
Katharine Tinucci, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Dayton, said the governor is confident the airline will continue to be a major employer in the state.
"We believe that Delta will maintain a strong hub in MSP, and we have every reason to believe they will maintain a steady level of jobs in Minnesota," Tinucci said.
Dayton said he was previously concerned about the potential job losses.
Analysts said it's likely more jobs will be consolidated. Bob Herbst, founder of AirlineFinancials.com, estimated Delta is saving millions annually by shutting down the MSP warehouse.
"In the future, Delta is going to do what they can to reduce costs," Herbst said. "Anything they can do to combine operations, that's what's going to happen."
Terry Trippler, owner of ThePlaneRules.com, an airline rules website, said Delta is maintaining its Minnesota hub, which is key in attracting Fortune 500 companies and getting conventions to come to the state.
"That is the most critical thing here," Trippler said.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712