American Airlines drops 4 US cities and cuts 3 routes in latest network adjustment

Jun 19, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated since its original publication date with new information.

Regional airports and small communities continue to shoulder much of the burden as airlines continue to make network adjustments due to an ongoing pilot shortage.

The latest move comes from American Airlines, as it plans to drop three small U.S. cities from its route map.

The airline will cease to serve Islip, New York (ISP); Ithaca, New York (ITH); and Toledo, Ohio (TOL) effective Sept. 7. The news was communicated internally to affected employees and was confirmed to TPG by an airline spokesperson. It was later reported by USA Today that a fourth city — Dubuque, Iowa (DBQ) — also would be cut by American.

American’s regional affiliate Envoy Air has historically served Toledo’s Express Airport from Chicago O’Hare (ORD), while regional affiliate Piedmont Airlines has served both the Tompkins International Airport in Ithaca and the Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip from Philadelphia (PHL).

Flights to all three airports were operated by the Embraer 145 regional jet.

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In addition to dropping service to four cities, the airline is cutting three routes from its network, as first seen in Cirium schedules and confirmed by a carrier spokesperson. The airline will also “temporarily” exit three additional markets and suspend winter service in two others, as listed in the table below.

Origin Destination Outcome
Charlotte (CLT) Alexandria, Louisiana (AEX) Route cut
Chicago (ORD) Ontario, California (ONT) Route cut
Chicago (ORD) Saint Lucia (UVF) Route cut
Charlotte (CLT) El Paso, Texas (ELP) Route suspension; no restart date available
Charlotte (CLT) Sioux Falls, South Dakota (FSD) Route suspension; no restart date available
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP) Route suspension; no restart date available
Philadelphia (PHL) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ) Suspended for winter 2022
Philadelphia (PHL) Santiago, Dominican Republic (STI) Suspended for winter 2022

For its part, American explains that it’s dropping service to the four U.S. cities due to the nationwide pilot shortage. In a statement confirming the move, a carrier spokesperson shared:

In response to the regional pilot shortage affecting the airline industry, American Airlines has made the difficult decision to end service in Islip and Ithaca, New York, and Toledo, Ohio, effective Sept. 7. We’re extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided to our customers in Islip, Ithaca and Toledo, and are working closely with them during this time. We’ll proactively reach out to customers scheduled to travel after this date to offer alternate arrangements.

Map of American’s latest route cuts (Courtesy of Cirium)

The pilot shortage has affected all major carriers and many small communities. United Airlines announced late last year that it would end service to 10 smaller cities, declaring operations in those markets unsustainable with 50-seat regional jets.

Regional giant SkyWest Airlines filed plans to drop 29 cities because of the pilot storage. These cuts represent most of SkyWest’s Essential Air Service (EAS) flying.

EAS is the federal government’s program that subsidizes air service to small communities where service might not otherwise be viable. Contracts are bid on by different carriers and awarded by the DOT, which administers the EAS program.

Delta Air Lines also dropped three small cities earlier this year due to the “ongoing travel demand impact from the pandemic.”

Interestingly, American’s CEO Robert Isom revealed earlier this month that the carrier had parked about 100 regional aircraft due to the pilot shortage.

At the time, Isom said that the airline hasn’t changed any capacity guidance as a result, implying that the airline would upgauge flights to larger regional jets.

American’s move to pare back regional connectivity comes just days after all three of the airline’s wholly-owned regional subsidiaries (Piedmont, Envoy and PSA Airlines) announced massive pay increases for pilots, with hourly rates now starting at $90 for new-hire first officers and climbing to $146 for first-year captains.

Though American is leaving Islip, Ithaca and Toledo, two of the four cities will remain connected to the networks of one of the Big 4 U.S. airlines. Islip is served by Southwest (as well as Frontier and Breeze), while both Delta Connection and United Express serve Ithaca.

However, neither Toledo nor Dubuque will remain connected to a larger hub. Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air will be the sole airline serving the Ohio city, while Dubuque is losing service altogether.

It’s not entirely bad news for American’s network in this week’s schedule update. The airline filed a new route, from Charlotte (CLT) to San Jose, California (SJC), with daily seasonal service beginning on Oct. 6 and ending on April 3, 2023.

American last flew the 2,275-mile transcon route in November 2018.

Additional reporting Ethan Klapper.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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