American Airlines To Drop 15 Cities After PSP Expires In October

Credit: American Airlines

American Airlines announced plans to drop service to 15 small and mid-sized U.S. cities following the expiration of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) on Oct. 1, further raising pressure on Congress to extend the federal aid program for another six months.

Fort Worth-based American referred to the decision in a statement as “the first step” in evaluating possible network changes in the coming weeks, suggesting that more cities may be cut. The carrier’s full October schedule will be released Aug. 29, and its updated November schedule is due in late September. 

“The airline will continue to re-assess plans for these and other markets as an extension of the Payroll Support Program remains under deliberation,” the company said.

The CARES Act, passed on March 31, prevented airlines that received aid from dropping service to most markets in their pre-pandemic networks, although the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) did provide narrow exemptions through a special waiver process. 

By publicly telegraphing its plans to drop service—and explicitly linking the decision to whether lawmakers extend the PSP—some industry watchers believe American may be attempting to use the service cuts as leverage to exact a renewal from Congress.

“American announced about a week ago there might be 30 cities that get cut, and they raised the possibility that this was just the opening salvo or shot across the bow,” industry analyst Bob Mann told Aviation Daily. “Whether or not the true intention is to persuade Congress, it will have some effect on them.”

Axed routes include small and mid-size cities in 15 states across the country. Most of the routes are served by American’s regional affiliates, suggesting that struggling regional carriers may soon face even greater challenges in the weeks to come.

“Most of this is regional flying, which illustrates how badly many of the regionals are going to be hit by this and similar cuts at other airlines,” Mann said. “That’s the story that’s not getting as much attention—the impact this all will have on the regional side.”

The complete list of cities losing American service includes Del Rio, Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; Florence, South Carolina; Greenville, North Carolina; Huntington, West Virginia; Joplin, Missouri; Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Michigan; Lake Charles, Louisiana; New Haven, Connecticut; New Windsor, New York; Roswell, New Mexico; Sioux City, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; Stillwater, Oklahoma; and Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, American’s relaunched cargo-only service—started in March after 35 years of no freighter flights—will total more than 1,000 flights serving 32 destinations in September, doubling its cargo-only flying compared to August. In addition, 1,200 passenger flights will carry belly cargo in September.

American mostly uses reconfigured Boeing 777-300s to transit cargo from the U.S. to destinations in Europe and Asia, including Beijing Capital (PEK), Frankfurt (FRA), Hong Kong (HKG), Seoul Incheon (ICN) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG). “Many of these flights deliver PPE and medical supplies from Asia to U.S. soil, as well as mail, clothing and hard goods,” American said in statement.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Washington, Ben covers Congress, regulatory agencies, the Departments of Justice and Transportation and lobby groups.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.