American Airlines exits 3 US cities, blames coronavirus and lack of additional federal aid

Nov 23, 2020

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American Airlines has said goodbye to three small cities in the Northeast as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit air travel hard.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier will not resume flights to Newburgh, New York (SWF); New Haven, Connecticut (HVN); or Williamsport, Pennsylvania (IPT), American spokesperson Nichelle Barrett confirmed and Cirium schedules show. The exits follow what was supposed to be a temporary suspension of flights beginning in October.

American’s move is the latest hit to small cities. Destinations like New Haven and Worcester, Massachusetts (ORH) have lost all commercial air service in COVID-related reductions with no timeline for flights to resume. The cuts were forewarned by airlines in their failed push for an extension of the federal payroll support program in September.

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An extension of the payroll support provided under the federal coronavirus aid package, or CARES Act, may still occur. However, even if it does, that appears increasingly unlikely to come until after the new Congress and administration are sworn in in January.

Prior to the Thanksgiving-related jump in flyers, the number of passengers on U.S. flights was down 62% year-over-year during the week ending Nov. 17, according to trade group Airlines for America (A4A). Most expect the busy holiday week to be followed by a slow early December.

The drop in travelers has prompted airlines to adjust their maps to where travelers want to go. Destinations with outdoor attractions, like beaches and mountains, have been popular for people wanting to escape their homes during the pandemic. Places like Montrose (MTJ) and Steamboat Springs (HDN) in the mountains of Colorado, and Palm Springs (PSP) in California have seen flights return far faster than nationally.

Related: US airlines see cancellations rise amid COVID warnings against Thanksgiving travel

American’s flights to Newburgh, New Haven and Williamsport were “not financially viable routes for the foreseeable future,” said Barrett on the decision to exit the markets. The airline was the only carrier serving New Haven and Williamsport.

The airline has now exited four U.S. cities since the pandemic began. The three cities join Oakland, California (OAK) that was previously cancelled. American has also temporarily suspended flights to another eight destinations, including Del Rio, Texas (DRT), Florence, South Carolina (FLO) and Worcester.

Delta Air Lines has indefinitely suspended flights to more than 16 cities across the U.S. Similarly, JetBlue Airways has suspended Newburgh and Worcester, and ended flights to Long Beach, California (LGB).

Related: American, United say flights to small cities are at risk unless Congress extends payroll program

United has suspended service to Myrtle Beach (MYR), Nantucket (ACK) and Stockton, California (SCK), according to Cirium. However, Myrtle Beach and Nantucket flights may resume on a seasonal basis next summer.

Conversely, some airlines are using the crisis to expand their maps. Southwest Airlines is on track to add 10 new cities to its map between November and next June. The carrier’s CEO Gary Kelly has said the airline is “happy to play offense” and grow during the pandemic.

In addition, United will return to New York JFK in February after a five-year hiatus.

Related: Oneworld carriers American, British Airways to trial testing regime for US-UK flights

Featured image by Ben Mutzabaugh/TPG.




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