United Express Embraer regional jet.
United Airlines is dropping 17 routes to regional airports due to low demand and staffing shortages.
Small cities have been a casualty of the pandemic, with airlines cutting unprofitable markets.
Travel analyst Henry Harteveldt said air carriers do not have a "civic responsibility" to serve unsustainable airports.
United Airlines is cutting over a dozen regional routes from its network as demand in small markets continues to feel the impact of the pandemic.
On Monday, Chicago-based United revealed it is cutting 17 routes to small airports, including leaving Alexandria, Louisiana, entirely. The news was first reported by The Points Guy and later confirmed to Insider.
"United makes regular adjustments to its schedule in response to market demand and staffing resources to ensure we can best serve our customers," the airline told Insider in a statement.
The move comes as airlines struggle to find and maintain profitable regional routes, despite a strong rebound in air travel. Specifically, United is dropping routes from its major hubs in Denver, Newark, Chicago, Houston, and Washington, DC, though it will continue to serve 16 of the 17 airports from other cities. Here's the full list:
Denver to Dayton, Ohio: United will still serve Dayton from Chicago and Washington DC.Newark to Oklahoma City: United will still serve Oklahoma City from Chicago, Denver, Houston, and San Francisco. Newark to Omaha, Nebraska: United will still serve Omaha from Chicago, Denver, and Houston.Newark to Knoxville, Tennessee: United will still serve Knoxville from Chicago, Denver, Houston, and Washington DC.Washington DC to Allentown, Pennsylvania: United will still serve Allentown from Chicago and Newark.Washington DC to Lexington, Kentucky: United will still serve Lexington from Chicago.Washington DC to Madison, Wisconsin: United will still serve Madison from Chicago and Denver.Washington DC to Oklahoma City: United will still serve Oklahoma City from Chicago, Denver, Houston, and San Francisco.Washington DC to Pensacola, Florida: United will still serve Pensacola from Chicago, Denver, and Houston.Houston to Alexandria, Louisiana: United is pulling out of Alexandria entirely, leaving Delta and American as the airport's only competitors.Houston to Columbia, South Carolina: United will still serve Columbia from Chicago and Washington DC.Houston to Akron-Canton, Ohio: United will still serve Akron-Canton from Chicago and Washington DC.Chicago to Bismarck, North Dakota: United will still serve Bismarck from Denver.Chicago to Charlottesville, Virginia: United will still serve Charlottesville from Washington DC.Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi: United will still serve Jackson from Houston.Chicago to Pasco-Tri Cities, Washington: United will still serve Pasco-Tri Cities from Denver and San Francisco.Chicago to Redmond, Oregon: United will still serve Redmond from Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
All of the routes were operated by United subsidiaries, including GoJet Airlines, SkyWest Airlines, Republic Airways, Air Wisconsin, Mesa Airlines, and CommutAir.
The pilot shortage has significantly impacted regional affiliates, with United CEO Scott Kirby telling legislators in December that 100 regional planes have been grounded "because there's not enough pilots to fly them."
In a recent interview with The Points Guy, Kirby said he is unsure if the small jets have a future in the company's fleet.
"We're still debating what the long-term future of 50 seaters really is," he said. "The challenge is, do you want to serve places like Erie, Pennsylvania, at all, or Cody, Wyoming, or do those places just get cut off of the connectivity to the world?"
United's network adjustment is not the first regional schedule change the carrier has made since the pandemic. In November, the company cut 11 cities from its route map, like Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Evansville, Indiana. Soon after, in December, United dropped another 14 routes between small airports and the DC area's Washington Dulles International Airport.
A number of factors contribute to United's decision to pull out of regional markets, though the biggest reasons are demand and profitability.
Henry Harteveldt, president and travel industry analyst of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider in November that small markets are expensive to operate to and carriers do not have a "civic responsibility" to serve them.
"In the wake of the most financially brutal 18 months that the global airline industry has experienced due to the COVID pandemic, airlines are going to seek out markets that they believe will give them an advantage, but if a city isn't profitable, they will cut it," he said at the time.
United is not the only carrier struggling to maintain regional routes. In November, American Airlines cut service to several small airports, like Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Charleston, West Virginia.
The carrier also nearly pulled out of Stillwater, Oklahoma, but the city and its local college agreed to pay the airline $4 million in revenue guarantee to keep its service.
Meanwhile, Delta also axed several regional routes at the end of 2021 and left three cities entirely, including Cody, Wyoming, Grand Junction, Colorado, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
However, some airports were not so lucky, with American leaving a couple of cities without any airline service at all, including Williamsport Regional Airport in Pennsylvania and Tweed-New Haven Airport in Connecticut.
Fortunately, new low-cost carrier Avelo Airlines started operations out of New Haven in November, though Williamsport is still waiting on a new operator, according to the airport's website.
Read the original article on Business Insider
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