There’s a new shortest airline route in the US and it’s just 29 miles

May 14, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

American Airlines has a new feather in its cap: the new shortest route in the U.S., and it has the federal government’s coronavirus aid package to thank for it.

In order to meet the conditions of the CARES Act aid it received, the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier is flying a circular route to destinations in the mountains of Colorado: Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Vail (EGE), on to Aspen (ASE), then Montrose (MTJ) and back to Dallas/Fort Worth, according to Cirium schedule data. The Vail-Aspen leg, at 29 miles, is the new — if temporary — shortest flight in the U.S. on a major carrier.

And no, passengers do not have to get off the plane at each stop.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

American is operating the shortest route in the U.S. between Vail and Aspen as part of a circle route to Colorado mountain destinations. (Image by Cirium)
American is operating the shortest route in the U.S. between Vail and Aspen in May, as part of a circle route to Colorado mountain destinations. (Image by Cirium)

 

American is operating the entire route with a 65-seat Bombardier CRJ700 through June 1, Cirium shows. The flight, AA2986, operates five-times-a-week from Thursday through Monday.

The carrier is selling the Vail-Aspen leg for just $46 one way on May 21, though residents across much of the U.S. are encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel. Flight time is 35 minutes.

U.S. airlines have gone to great lengths to comply with the requirements in the CARES Act that require them to serve all of their existing destinations in order to be eligible for aid. Many have sought waivers, though with mixed success. Others have consolidated routes by making one city a “tag” onto another route.

Related: A complete list of major airlines’ coronavirus change and cancellation policies

For example, Alaska Airlines consolidated its nonstop flights between Seattle (SEA) and both Baltimore/Washington (BWI) and Pittsburgh (PIT) into a single flight from Seattle to Pittsburgh and on to Baltimore. The airline is even selling stand-alone itineraries between the cities, with Pittsburgh-BWI round-trips going for $256 and up during the week of May 20.

Still, many flights are operating nearly empty. Data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows an average of just 31 people on flights in the U.S. during the week ending May 12. The number of people on flights is trending up — from a low of fewer than 10 per flight — but that comes only after airlines have slashed more than 80% of their schedules.

“We shouldn’t be flying airplanes that are empty,” A4A president and CEO told senators at a hearing on May 6.

Since then, the Department of Transportation has slightly eased the CARES Act flight schedule rules. Airlines can now suspend service to up to 11 cities on their maps, with the regulator ensuring that flights continue to every commercial airport across the country on at least one carrier.

Related: These are the only long-haul routes American, Delta and United plan to fly in May

Even with the new flexibility, American is not expected to suspend flights to Aspen, Montrose or Vail in Colorado. Bill Tomcich, an Aspen-based air service consultant with Airplanners, told The Colorado Sun on May 14 that bookings to the mountain towns are starting to pick up for the summer.

But American’s claim to America’s shortest commercial air route will be short lived. Nonstop round-trip flights between both Aspen and Vail and its Dallas/Fort Worth hub resume on June 4, according to Cirium.

Alaska will reclaim the title when American’s Aspen and Vail nonstops resume. Its 31-mile hop from Petersburg (PSG) to Wrangell (WRG) in its namesake state on a Boeing 737 will again be the shortest route in the U.S. on a major carrier.

Related: Air travel travel won’t return to pre-coronvirus levels until 2023, airline group predicts

Featured image by Ben Mutzabaugh/TPG.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.