Delta offers some voluntary buyouts as fuel weighs

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc is offering voluntary early retirement and buyout plans to some employees as the airline tries to operate more efficiently in the face of high fuel costs.

Delta had already announced plans to pare back its schedule by at least 4 percent after the Labor Day holiday in September.

Now it must reduce the costs tied to those flights as well, including the number of people who operate the airline, Chief Executive Richard Anderson said in a recorded message made available on a company hotline on Friday.

"In order for our business to thrive we must think of the current high fuel prices as a permanent reality of our business," Anderson said.

While fuel prices dropped this week, they did not fall back "into the area that is normal, if you will," he said.

The price of Brent crude is and will continue to be high, Anderson said.

Brent crude oil futures fell for five straight days this week, settling at $109.13 a barrel, as investors shed commodities holdings.

Delta is offering a voluntary early retirement program to airline employees whose age, combined with 10 or more years of service, comes to at least 55.

Employees with at least five consecutive years with Delta who do not meet the retirement age specifications qualify for a buyout program, he said.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl)