Concern about reductions in air service to many midsize- and small-market U.S. airports emerged as a major theme at the Routes Americas conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, where delegates from 100 airlines and 260 airports gathered to explore potential new flight offerings.
According to U.S. Travel, 60% of U.S. airports have lost connectivity over the last decade. The reductions have come as consolidation has reduced the number of major U.S. airlines from 11 to four since 2004. As they consolidated, airlines concentrated their operations at fewer hubs, leaving former hub cities such as Memphis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., with empty gates.
Meanwhile, the pilot shortage plaguing regional airlines has combined with moves by the major airlines to phase out 30-seat aircraft and reduce their 50-seat fleets to take an additional toll on service options at small-market airports.
Approximately 30 small airports in the continental U.S. lost commercial service between the middle of 2013 and the end of 2015, according to a list provided by the trade group American Association of Airport Executives. In 2016, at least seven more airports lost service, according to an analysis of data obtained by Travel Weekly from the commercial aviation analytics company Diio Mi. Small markets such as Huron, S.D.; Hot Springs, Ark.; and Los Alamos, N.M.; were among the casualties.
For the most part, speakers at the conference said the solution to the connectivity issue should come from the private sector. John Slattery, CEO of the Brazilian regional aircraft manufacturer Embraer said, “I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think it can be rooted in regulation. Airlines will fly where they will make money. It is up to the airports to attract the airlines.” To read more at Travel Weekly, click here.