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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.