Based in Fort Worth American Airlines is removing three small airports from its schedule, citing a pilot shortage.
American Airlines will discontinue service to Toledo, Ohio, as well as Ithaca and Islip, New York, on September 7, affecting three airports served by regional carriers that have been hardest hit by the industry’s pilot shortage, according to the company.
American Airlines is the only commercial carrier that serves the northwest Ohio airport in Toledo, which is about 50 miles south of Detroit.
“In response to the airline industry’s regional pilot shortage, American Airlines has made the difficult decision to discontinue service in Islip and Ithaca, New York, and Toledo, Ohio, effective September 7,” American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Koos said. “We’re extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided to our customers in Islip, Ithaca and Toledo, and are working closely with them during this time. We’ll proactively reach out to customers scheduled to travel after this date to offer alternate arrangements.”
Carriers are facing a severe pilot shortage as a result of thousands of retirements and buyouts during the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced payrolls during difficult financial times. Airlines are now ramping up schedules in response to unexpectedly strong travel demand.
Regional carriers, such as those operating under the American Eagle brand, have been hit the hardest by the pilot shortage.
This is due to the fact that pilots from regional carriers are frequently recruited to work for mainline carriers such as American, Delta, and United. Mainline carriers offer better pay, benefits, and schedules, as well as opportunities to advance faster to longer and international routes, which are more efficient for pilots who are paid for time in the air. As a result, American and other carriers have reduced their use of regional carriers. Despite high customer demand, American CEO Robert Isom stated that the company has parked approximately 100 planes at regional carriers.
In September 2019, regional carriers operated approximately 52 percent of all American Airlines flights, whether they were owned by American Airlines, such as Envoy, Piedmont, and PSA Airlines, or contracted carriers, such as SkyWest, Mesa, Republic, and Compass. Cirium estimates that only 46% of flights in September 2022 will be on regional carriers.
Envoy, which flies American Eagle jets, flies to Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport. On its Piedmont brand, American flies to Ithaca Tompkins International Airport and Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip.
American Airlines operates flights from Toledo to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the airline’s busiest hubs.
American Airlines’ hub in Philadelphia connects Ithaca to the rest of its network. Delta and United also have flights to Ithaca. American also flew from Philadelphia to Islip. Along with Frontier, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines fly to Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip.
Each of the airports that are losing service is approximately an hour’s drive from another airport where American Airlines flies.
Due to a pilot and aircraft shortage, American Airlines has reduced service in recent months. American has increased pay at regional airlines and invested in programs for student pilots, but the reduction in pilots has not stopped. American Airlines recently canceled a scheduled flight from DFW International Airport to Tel Aviv, Israel. Meanwhile, American has agreed to continue flying to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for up to $4 million in February.