Pilot Shortage Drives American Airlines To Drop Four Markets

Credit: Lukas Wunderlich/Alamy Stock Photo

American Airlines will cut four regional routes connecting smaller markets with its Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Philadelphia (PHL) hubs, citing the pilot shortage at US regional airlines.

From Sept. 7, routes to ORD from Dubuque (DBQ) in Iowa and Toledo (TOL) in Ohio will be scrapped. From the same date, flights to PHL from Islip (ISP) and Ithaca (ITH), both in New York state, will be eliminated. All four regional markets will leave American’s network.

American regional subsidiary Envoy Air operates the DBQ-ORD and TOL-ORD routes 2X-daily each with Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft. Another American regional subsidiary, Piedmont Airlines, operates the ISP-PHL and ITH-PHL routes up to 2X-daily each using an ERJ-145 aircraft.

“We have noted that we have 100 regional aircraft on the ground that we want to fly, but can’t due to lack of regional pilots,” an American spokesperson said. “Like many network carriers, we have reduced our regional flying in recent months in response to the regional pilot shortage.”

American noted that the four cities dropped are no more than 72 miles from the nearest airport with American service, including ISP being just 45 miles from New York Kennedy (JFK).

Other US carriers have trimmed schedules. Delta Air Lines this summer will drop approximately 100 daily departures from its schedule from July 1-Aug. 7. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has said the carrier has 150 regional aircraft in its system parked that are “never going to come back, I assume.” Kirby has said the pilot shortage “is only going to get worse.”

The American spokesperson said the oneworld carrier expects the pilot shortage “could loom for some time.”

American’s move to cut routes comes shortly after pilots at Envoy and Piedmont, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), secured pay raises of around 50% in tentative labor contract agreements.

“I don’t think there is a short-term solution” to ease the pilot shortage, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Washington), chair of the US House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee, told Routes in an interview. He added that “airlines have to continue to invest in what they hadn’t been investing in and that’s producing pilots.”

Larsen said it “is important that we support regional air service to small communities,” adding: “What we need to ensure is that there is a wide distribution of availability [of airline service] across the country.”

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.