American Airlines says goodbye to shortest domestic route crown with new flexibility to drop cities

May 23, 2020

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American Airlines can say goodbye to the title of operating the shortest domestic route among major U.S. carriers. American, along with 14 other airlines, will be able to suspend flights to 75 cities across the country as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep most would-be travelers out of the skies.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) handed out the exemptions to air service requirements under the government’s coronavirus aid package, known as the CARES Act, late on May 22. While no city will lose air service entirely, the move allows airlines to operate fewer money-losing flights even after accepting federal payroll assistance.

The exemptions allow airlines to suspend flights until Sept. 30. After that, restrictions under the CARES Act expire allowing carriers to cancel routes at will if they choose.

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

One victim of the new exemptions are many airlines’ new tag or triangle routes. These services combine stops in multiple cities on one flight, reducing the cost to airlines at a time when few people are flying.

As a result of this push, American briefly flew a three-stop triangle from its Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) base to Vail (EGE), Aspen (ASE), Montrose (MTJ) and then back to Dallas/Fort Worth. The 29-mile Vail-Aspen leg was the shortest domestic flight among major carriers for several weeks. American can suspend flights to Aspen, Montrose and Vail, as well as Worcester (ORH) in Massachusetts, under the DOT’s new exemptions.

Other large carriers receiving exemptions include Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. Southwest Airlines, notably, did not seek to suspend service to any cities. Hawaiian Airlines has already suspended service to most of its destinations on the U.S. mainland.

Related: With planes flying empty, government allows airlines to drop more cities

Seven smaller airlines, including Cape Air, Silver Airways and Sun Country Airlines, also received exemptions from the regulator.

The news comes even as airlines are seeing a small uptick in the number of travelers. Airline executives have reported small but notable increases in leisure bookings and passengers since the beginning of May. Carriers have added back a few flights, with United planning to fly a quarter of its schedule in July compared to just 10% in May and June.

Keeping with the trend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported its single busiest day since the pandemic began on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day. The agency screened 348,673 people, or just 12% of the number a year ago.

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

Here is a full list of the DOT’s exemptions to large airlines:

Alaska

  • Charleston, South Carolina (CHS)
  • Columbus (CMH)
  • El Paso (ELP)
  • New Orleans (MSY)
  • San Antonio (SAT)

Allegiant

  • New Orleans
  • Ogdensburg, New York (OGS)
  • Palm Springs (PSP)
  • San Antonio
  • Springfield, Illinois (SPI)
  • Tucson (TUS)

American

  • Aspen
  • Montrose
  • Vail
  • Worcester

Delta

  • Aspen
  • Bangor (BGR)
  • Erie, Pennsylvania (ERI)
  • Flint, Michigan (FNT)
  • Fort Smith, Arkansas (FSM)
  • Lincoln, Nebraska (LNK)
  • New Bern, North Carolina (EWN)
  • Peoria, Illinois (PIA)
  • Santa Barbara (SBA)
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (AVP)
  • Williston, North Dakota (XWA)

Frontier

  • Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP)
  • Mobile, Alabama (MOB)
  • Palm Springs
  • Portland, Maine (PWM)
  • Tyler, Texas (TYR)

JetBlue

  • Albuquerque (ABQ)
  • Palm Springs
  • Sacramento (SMF)
  • Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ)
  • Worcester

Spirit

  • Asheville (AVL)
  • Greensboro (GSO)
  • Plattsburgh, New York (PBG)
  • St. Crois (STX)
  • St. Thomas (STT)

United

  • Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton (ABE)
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee (CHA)
  • Fairbanks (FAI)
  • Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH)
  • Ithaca (ITH)
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan (AZO)
  • Key West (EYW)
  • Lansing, Michigan (LAN)
  • Myrtle Beach (MYR)
  • Rochester, Minnesota (RST)
  • St. Thomas (STT)

Featured image courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport.

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