Twin Cities-based Compass Airlines, still bearing a logo reflective of its former owner Northwest Airlines, is losing a key contract with its largest customer: Delta Air Lines.
Compass is a regional carrier that flies routes under the guise of major airlines. It currently operates about 280 daily flights in the western half of the U.S. for Delta and American Airlines.
The company declined to say how it intends to make up the revenue loss or how the contract loss could affect employees, but said it is “continuously exploring opportunities that could be a good fit.” Delta accounts for about two-thirds of its business, based on routes and total aircraft.
“While Compass is certainly disappointed in Delta’s decision to allow our contract to reach its natural end, our future is bright, and we remain committed to those employees who call Minneapolis home,” Compass Chief Executive Rick Leach said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Delta said it will not renew its contract with Compass and St. Louis-based GoJet Airlines “in an effort to reduce operational complexity and create better consistency with the overall product and experience for customers.” Compass leases and operates 36 airplanes on Delta’s behalf.
The wind-down, which will occur over the next 11 months, will reduce Compass’ fleet from 56 to 20 aircraft. Delta said it will divvy up those airplanes and the routes between the three regional carriers it still has contracts with: SkyWest Airlines, Republic Airways and Endeavor Air — the last of which is a wholly owned Delta subsidiary, also based at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
“This strategic move allows Delta to simplify the Delta Connection network, while maintaining the airline’s network footprint,” Delta said in a statement, with each of the remaining carriers focusing on specific regions of the U.S.
Compass was born out of a labor dispute at Northwest Airlines in 2007. Its logo still has the same gray circle and red arrow, pointing northwest, as its former parent company. It started with a single route between Washington-Dulles and MSP. Compass was folded into Delta following the merger with Northwest Airlines. Delta sold Compass in 2010 to Trans States Holdings, which also owns GoJet.
Compass closed its Minneapolis pilot, flight-attendant and maintenance base at the end of 2017. The airline used to fly several MSP routes for Delta, but it now exclusively flies in western states. Its crew bases are in Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Compass kept its corporate headquarters in the Twin Cities.
“Over the years, there have been times when moving our headquarters out of Minneapolis would have made operational sense, but we elected to stay due to the depth of talent at our Minneapolis location,” Leach said. “There are currently no plans to make any adjustments to our headquarters location.”