Delta Air Lines will not be expanding service to Tweed-New Haven Airport this year.

The airport had hoped to receive a Delta route to Cincinnati starting Aug. 30, but a changed economic climate due partially to the war with Iraq has stalled the airline’s expansion plans. While there will be no new route this year, Delta representatives said they are still interested in New Haven as a potential market and expansion may be possible in 2004.

“[Delta is] at sixes and sevens due to an overall decline in airline travel,” said Susan Godshall, senior vice president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. “They left the door open and they said they were very appreciative of the work being done by the business community.”

In a letter to airport manager Richard Lamport, Delta’s new market implementation specialist Brad DiFiore said New Haven had shown Delta that Tweed “could be a valuable addition to the Delta network,” but said economic conditions had forced them to reevaluate their plans.

“The commencement of war has had a significant chilling effect on an already bad business environment,” DiFiore said, noting that Delta had recently announced a 12.5 percent capacity reduction. “To be clear, Delta is still very much interested in the long-term potential of the New Haven market.”

New Haven Economic Development Administrator Henry Fernandez said getting an additional airline into Tweed is key to New Haven’s long-term growth. But he said the city is still growing and is only 60 minutes away from Bradley International Airport in Hartford — a shorter ride than for many other developing cities.

He criticized the state of Connecticut for ignoring its own Transportation Strategy Board’s suggestions about New Haven’s ports.

“The state really needs to move to a place where it sees the need for a second major airport,” Fernandez said.

Bruce Alexander, Yale’s vice president of New Haven and state affairs, said the people of the New Haven business community understand the importance of air service, noting that the New Haven Regional Leadership Council sees this as a major topic.

“We’ve not given up on Delta by any means,” Alexander said. “Delta recognizes that this is probably the most underserved air market in the country.”

Even those who have clashed with the airport in the past said they were sorry that the Delta plan fell through. East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, who is opposed to geographic expansion of Tweed, said he hoped the additional airline would have helped make the airport more prosperous and given area residents an easier way to fly to their destinations.

“I think its unfortunate that Delta’s not coming in,” Maturo said.

There will still be some expansion at the airport. US Airways will be adding back a fifth daily flight to Philadelphia on June 9. Godshall said the flight, which will depart around 7 a.m. and return around 8 p.m., should make it easier for travellers to leave New Haven and come back the same day.

A startup airline has also inquired about running service from Tweed through its hub in Allentown, Pa., Godshall said.

“There’s an undercurrent of interest in New Haven,” Godshall said.

But Godshall said Delta was still “the premier airline” and said she hoped service could begin in 2004, losing only a few months.