A Closer Look at the 15 Cities American Chose to Drop

American

A couple of weeks ago, American put out its list of cities that it was going to drop in October if the CARES Act wasn’t extended. This cliff was created by the CARES Act itself, which restricted an airline’s ability to actually drop cities until October 1. If more money is thrown at the airlines, then this is all moot. But if not, American is making it clear that things will be changing. Did American choose its cities based on political expediency? Or was it solely based on performance? Let’s take a look.

American announced that it would suspend service to 15 airports beginning October 7 — the day it begins operating its October schedule — though it has already had to back off three of them. I’ll get into that later. The suspension was announced as only lasting through November 3 since the airline just hasn’t made any decisions about its November schedule yet, but let’s be honest. If these are being suspended in October, they aren’t coming back a month later.

Overarching Themes

The cuts are all at small airports where American had been operating four flights per day or fewer even before the pandemic. These airports also generally tended to be weak performers, but that didn’t stop speculation that these cuts were political. It seems highly likely there was a political component here. After all, the cities were spread out into different states, and that could help put local pressure on Congress to give more money to the airlines. But it’s highly unlikely that this was the main driving factor in choosing these particular markets… or at least most of them.

Looking for broader trends, I found that with two exceptions, these routes were all very close to an alternate airport served by American. Judging from the city’s downtown to the next nearest airport, those 13 markets were all less than 90 miles away by car. I’ll talk about that in more detail with exceptions below.

I went into Cirium to look over whatever data I could find. The problem is that government revenue data hasn’t been released beyond the first quarter of 2020 yet, so it’s hard to see just how hard hit things have been. But I do have T100 load factor data that goes into May, so, I’ve cobbled this together the best I could. Let’s look at this city by city, ranked by stage-length adjust (SLA) unit revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019.

Data via Cirium

Williamsport, PA – 58 miles from State College

Williamsport pretty clearly seems to be the worst performer of the group. Even before the pandemic, American was filling just over half the seats in the market. That plus low fares meant that Williamsport had the lowest stage-length adjusted unit revenue of any city not propped up by Essential Air Service funding. It’s so close to State College — an airport that could use a boost — that this must have been a no-brainer, especially with not even a Little League World Series to help it this year.

Del Rio, TX – 158 miles from San Antonio

Del Rio is an outlier in that it is pretty far away from another airport, but it’s also an underperformer. Notably, it appears that travel really fell off after COVID. American’s system loads fell off about 33 points down to about 48 percent in May. But in Del Rio, it fell from an already light 66 percent all the way down to 28 percent. On top of that, Del Rio sits on the border, and land crossings have been restricted. So I imagine any Mexican customers are having trouble getting there to fly.

Florence, SC – 68 miles from Myrtle Beach

Florence is what you might call… geographically undesirable. It sits inland, not far from Myrtle Beach but also only a 2 hour drive from the massive Charlotte hub. It saw loads drop more than 40 points between January and May. You might try to compare it with Greenville/Spartanburg or Columbia, but both of those have higher SLA unit revenues and kept loads more than double Florence in May. American is the only airline in the market, so it’s not like it is losing a competitive edge.

Greenville, NC – 46 miles from New Bern

I’ve always been amazed at just how many random little towns in North Carolina are served out of the Charlotte hub, and this is one of them. Greenville is out in the eastern part of the state, and it’s close to several other small airports. It’s also only 100 miles away from Raleigh/Durham. If you compare it to nearby New Bern, it’s no contest. Greenville SLA unit revenue is about a point less than New Bern, and while New Bern saw loads drop 25 points from January to May, Greenville was cut in half.

New Haven, CT – 52 miles to Westchester or Hartford

New Haven is one of those airports that you’d think would do better. It is situated to attract from northern New York suburbs as well as other coastal towns in New England. Despite that, it just doesn’t work. Most people go to other airports in the region, and New Haven is left with very few travelers. It filled 31 percent of seats in May, something that wouldn’t be a death knell if the yields weren’t so low.

Joplin, MO – 69 miles to Northwest Arkansas

This one isn’t actually going away just yet. Joplin, it turns out, is an Essential Air Service market — albeit unsubsidized — and somehow American never realized this. For that reason, it can’t just stop flying to the city. Instead, it is now looking to go through the government process so it can pull out. That request was filed with the feds last week for a December 1 stop date, and it was accompanied by this chart:

Note: August RASM is through 8/23/2020 and September and October RASM is for bookings as of 8/25/2020

This looks bad. Things started to recover in June and then fell of a cliff. But be careful. In July, American ramped up quickly to offering 3,570 departing seats, up from 1,482 in June. Also, August isn’t for a full month and September and October only include bookings made before August 25. So, while this does show that American gambled by expanding too quickly and lost in July, it’s still not as bad as American wants you to believe. It is, apparently, bad enough for American to walk away.

Huntington, WV – 57 miles to Charleston

West Virginia is a tough place to succeed as an airline in general, but with Charleston so close to Huntington, it’s exceedingly hard to make Huntington work. Huntington wasn’t the worst performer, but it did see its loads drop to a mere 18 percent in May. This one has dried up quickly and appears to have stayed depressed. It was the fourth worst load factor for American in May.

Kalamazoo, MI – 52 miles to Grand Rapids

Michigan has a lot of small airports, and Kalamazoo hasn’t done that poorly. It has decent fares and loads are about half full. So what gives? I think this is likely the airport that gets sacrificed to try to boost the others. Grand Rapids is north, South Bend is south, and Lansing is northeast. Getting rid of this could help boost the rest. Or this could just be political. Lansing and Kalamazoo both perform similarly, but Kalamazoo lost out for one reason or another.

Stewart/Newburgh, NY – 56 miles to Westchester, 69 to LaGuardia

Westchester has a lot of rich neighbors, and Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK are the big guys. But Stewart? Not so much. In fact, American pulled out on April 23, something that was allowed by the CARES Act since Stewart was a New York City metro area airport. Service didn’t return until August 18. Presumably forward bookings weren’t looking very good, and now it’s gone again.

Stillwater, OK – 68 miles to Tulsa, 73 to Oklahoma City

North of Oklahoma City and west of Tulsa, you find little Stillwater. Stillwater looks a lot like Huntington. It’s closer to other airports, and traffic basically disappeared when the pandemic hit. Loads plunged to a mere 18 percent in May. Like Huntington — the home of Marshal University — Stillwater is a college town with Oklahoma State dominating the landscape. Now those kids, if they ever come back, will have to just drive into town from elsewhere.

Roswell, NM – 177 miles from Lubbock

Roswell seemed like an odd choice. It is really far from just about anything else; El Paso and Albuquerque are both about 200 miles away. Other than aliens, there’s not much else around. Oh, except there are also a ton of shiny American airplanes parked there for good. But now, American has reversed course. In a statement from the airline, I was told this:

In the absence of an extension of the Payroll Support Program, we’re faced with a host of difficult decisions to right-size our airline, given the significant and sustained drop in demand we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. While our flights to Roswell are among those that have suffered when it comes to demand and profitability, we have been in touch with local officials and will defer our decision to suspend service to the market as those conversations are ongoing.

Like I said, this was a bit of a head scratcher. I’m just going to assume that the good people of Roswell threatened to blow up all the MAX aircraft American has parked there if service wasn’t restored.

Sioux City, IA – 89 miles to Sioux Falls, 96 to Omaha

I think we can all agree that this one just SUX. No really. American also had to file a notice to end service here, just as in Joplin. But this chart looks worse.

Note: August RASM is through 8/23/2020 and September and October RASM is for bookings as of 8/25/2020

Nearby Sioux Falls, it should be noted, is getting a nonstop to Charlotte. So this is presumably a way to help shore up service there. while getting out of what looks to be a really ugly market for the airline.

Springfield, IL – 72 miles to Bloomington and Peoria

Central Illinois is one of those strange areas where, like the Florida panhandle, there are far too many airports in a small geography. You have Peoria, Bloomington/Normal, Champaign, etc. Springfield is the state capital, but United is the only one that flies to Chicago. American flies down to Dallas/Fort Worth, and it’s just not pulling its weight. Springfield saw load factors plunge 57.6 points in May vs January. That’s the third worst performance at American, tied with Honolulu which had a full quarantine in place that actively prevented visitors. Springfield had no such excuse.

Dubuque, IA – 81 miles from Cedar Rapids and Moline

Dubuque actually looks a lot like Springfield on the surface. It had similar SLA unit revenue numbers in both Q4 of last year and Q1 of this year. But there is a difference. Load factors held up better, only dropping 37.6 points. The bad news is that fares held up worse. SLA yield was 1.3 points better in Q4 but that gap had narrowed to 0.8 in Q1. I imagine things eroded from there. In the end, it gets to the same place and both cities are gone.

Lake Charles, LA – 66 miles from Beaumont

Poor Lake Charles. It gets walloped by Hurricane Laura and it’s losing American service. This one was somewhat confusing before the hurricane did its damage. Its SLA unit revenue is actually good, and it remained respectable into Q1. Load factors only dropped 18 points between January and May, settling at 54.6 percent. How does something like Lake Charles get killed when a similarly-sized place like, say, Central Wisconsin sticks around with consistently worse performance across the board? Both are close to other airports, so that’s not the reason. Maybe this is a political thing. I’m not entirely sure.

Overall, these are markets that look to be in rougher shape than most. That still doesn’t explain how some made the cut while others didn’t, but maybe it will become more clear when there’s more recent data available.

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56 comments on “A Closer Look at the 15 Cities American Chose to Drop

  1. Good for Roswell, threaten to have the aliens put a force field around those AA jets if they pulled out so they couldn’t get to them.

    That threat must have worked…..LOL

  2. Small towns where the majority of passengers connect at a hub with no local traffic on the route and the route served predominantly on small RJs will not survive this crisis. Not for American and not for other airlines.
    And American could very much realize that principle and still have chosen the cities it is cancelling based on political intentions because there are more airline/cities at risk than what has been cut.

    1. You are going to see a lot more smallish airports like HVN being dropped over the coming months as yields remain depressed. In the long run, it maybe healthier for the big three to drop most of these cities & focus on the mid-sized & larger markets that are nearby to them.

      1. Plenty of small cities will remain. I think what this shows is that when small cities are within 80 miles or less of each other, only one of those cities will retain service. I also think that makes perfect sense as it will likely strengthen the performance of the city that remains.

        1. There will be some small cities that retain ONE or maybe TWO network carriers but they won’t have multiple carriers like they have had for years. Where there is just one carrier, it might not survive esp. if it is within a 2 hour drive of a larger airport as CF noted.

  3. Regarding New Haven… Keep in mind that BDL is called Hartford-**Springfield** airport for a reason, as it’s < 6 miles from the MA state line as the crow flies. Also, traffic on I-95, I-91, and similar state roads and parkways is often pretty bad (at least in pre-COVID times).

    Most of the financial firms and corporate offices in CT are located relatively far west on the CT panhandle. Stamford, CT is actually closer (based on driving distance, not necessarily travel time) to LGA than it is to New Haven/Tweed, with only Greenwich between Stamford and HPN.
    Fairfield, CT (which has a few big companies, but is pushing the eastern edge of the big corporate/finance area down there) is roughly equidistant (in terms of driving distance) to HPN and New Haven.

    1. Kilroy is correct. I used HVN back in the 1990’s when UA had a 737 going to ORD. Very convenient, but the plane was very empty. But, with my parents living in eastern Fairfield County and me in Illinois at the time, it was convenient. Almost all of my dad’s business trips were out of LGA or JFK depending on the final destination. NYC and HVN were equidistant, but you could go to so many more places out of LGA or JFK than you ever could out of HVN.

      As an aside, I get annoyed when they list the airport as Hartford/Springfield CT since Springfield is not in Connecticut. It should be Hartford CT/Springfield MA.

    2. This is my neck of the woods & I can speak to this. Killroy is correct as most travelers from the I95, I-91 & I-84 corridors will schlep to NYC to fly rather than utilizing airports further north & east do to the number of options aforted to them.

      Westchester is interesting in that at first glance it’s another small airport in the shadow of NYC’s big three, but what it has going for it is moneyed suburbs all around it & a huge number of private corporate jets housed there. Interestingly enough, the airport is split between Harrison NY & Greenwich CT making it a bit contentious for some on the ct side as some residents didn’t want planes flying over their neighborhood of multi-acre estates behind Rye Lake Rd & King St.

      1. SEAN – FWIW, I believe HPN lies entirely within New York. While it abuts Connecticut, none of its acreage is actually within Connecticut. Of course, this is the crux of the issue with the well-heeled neighbors in Greenwich, who always fear its becoming “LaGuardia North”, as they say – they have relatively little political say compared to what they would wield if they were at least within the same jursidiction. Nonetheless, given the (considerable) resources of those who reside in Greenwich, they have still managed to restrict commercial airliner operations there.

        1. Hi Eastern 727 Whisperjet,

          I can tell you as a resident of the area, a portion of the HPN airfield does cross into Greenwich. If you come from I-684, that is all New York. However coming from the Hutch River Parkway via King St & Rye Lake Rd,, that is in part Greenwich. The rest of your post is correct BTW as the airport entry is in Harrison.

          1. SEAN – are you certain? I also am in the area, and I am pretty certain that the entirety of the airport property is in New York proper. The confusion may stem from the fact that while parts of King Street and (all of) Rye Lake Avenue are indeed in Connecticut as they approach the airport, they are nonetheless not part of the HPN property (which, as far as I know, is entirely within the State of New York). The map views at the addresses below may help clarify that, as they show the state line and the fact that King Street does weave into Connecticut but is not part of the airport proper, as HPN itself remains entirely within New York:

            https://www.google.com/maps/@41.0620404,-73.7021518,15z?hl=en

            https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/41.0660/-73.7092

            And these site plans make clear (I think) that the airport property itself never crosses into the Nutmeg State:

            http://crcairport.org/master-plan/

            https://crcairport.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/chapter2.pdf

            Hope this helps!

      2. I’ve flown into HPN numerous times over the years. If you are visiting one of the companies located there like Pepsi, you can’t beat the convenience. The airfares command a pretty high premium too which may explain why service remains. Business travel won’t be back for a LONG time, though.

        1. I used to live and work near White Plains, and I agree on the convenience of HPN. It is super convenient to travellers (especially compared to trying to get to LGA, JFK, or EWR in traffic), and there are so many financial firms and corporate HQs/offices in the area that I’m sure HPN earns some decent fares for the airlines (at least when business travel isn’t restricted by COVID-19).

          Downsides to HPN are the short runway, cramped terminal area after security, the fact that flights to/from HPN are usually among the first to be cancelled by airlines and ATC during IRROPs or when the NYC area airspace gets too congested, and high cost of parking ($30/day at HPN, vs $18/day at JFK long term; better to park at the office and Uber if you’re flying out of HPN for leisure travel and can’t expense the parking). Even with those, however, the fact that HPN is ~20 minutes or less by car from White Plains, Greenwich, and (as an example) Pepsi HQ, and (pre-COVID) offers flights to most airline hubs east of the Mississippi means that HPN fills a valuable role, especially for those business travellers who aren’t quite senior enough to fly on the many corporate jets parked at HPN.

          1. Know PepsiCo’s campus very well. If you haven’t been there, I suggest a visit as the art is a sight to behold as well as the property & directly across the street is SUNY Purchase AKA Purchase College, one of the best schools of the arts in the country.

  4. I’d be curious how much of this is ado to most passengers being leisure travelers these days. I’ve flown in and out of many small secondary airports during my career and have always been astonished at the fares. Of course, I needed to be there so the fare was paid, but if I lived there a 1, 2 even 3 hours car ride is nothing to save a few hundred bucks, especially if it’s a family and that cost delta is multiplied. For example I know people in Sioux Falls that drive to MSP (a 3 hour drive) to travel. I know this is why Allegiant goes to these small markets but they don’t fly everywhere.

  5. I remember when American launched service to Stewart-Newburgh from Chicago, using mainline aircraft. In recent years, it’s been turboprops and (since the turboprop operation out of PHL stopped) small regional jets. Now, I guess it’s down to DL to DTW (is that also suspended, given proximity to NYC airports) plus the leisure stuff on Allegiant and JetBlue. How times change.

    1. “Now, I guess it’s down to DL to DTW (is that also suspended, given proximity to NYC airports)…”

      Service to SWF is currently suspended for DL…

    2. Speaking of SWF, the PANYNJ took over the airport operations with the intention of creating a new international gateway. The hope was to decrease the pressure on the other airports especially EWR, but we’re talking 60-miles from Midtown Manhattan & it doesn’t pencil out. So it’s not a surprise that AA is dropping it from it’s network.

      1. SEAN – and, just as interesting, the MTA had been considering (several times over several decades) to extend rail service (from the Port Jervis Line) into SWF so that there would at least be a rail service into Manhattan. The problem with this was severalfold:

        1) As you mention, the distance (and therefore time) to the main CBD in the region is just way long;

        2) To get to Manhattan (Penn Station), you would still need to transfer at either Secaucus or Hoboken (a one-seat ride from the Port Jervis Line and any potnetial extension to SWF using dual-mode locomotives had been planned when the “Access to the Region’s Core”, or “ARC”, tunnel was being built, but when New Jersey scrapped that project that was no longer an option – I am uncertain the extent to which Amtrak’s replacement “Gateway” tunnel project will allow for one-seat rides from the Main/Bergen County/Port Jervis and Pascack Valley Lines, if at all);

        3) Another option that has been scrapped was to build a new rail alignment that would have connected the Port Jervis Line (and an extension of it to SWF) over the new Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo Bridge with the Metro-North Hudson Line, thus allowing for service into Grand Central Terminal in New York City. With the new bridge having no accommodation for rail, that option is likely gone.

        4) Any connecting bus between SWF and an existing Port Jervis Line station would involve (yet another) transfer for any rider using it from New York City; and

        5) An express bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to SWF (which has been tried) just has a very long and unreliable travel times, especially with (admittedly pre-COVID) summer weekend trtaffic to/from the Catskills area.

        I tihnk Norwegian gave SWF a real try, but – in the end – it just never seems to really work, I feel.

        1. Well done – you hit every issue, but I’ll add one more – 6. a bus over the Newburgh Beacon Bridge to the Beacon station on the Hudson Line. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it was a possibility.

    3. I worked on a consulting project to initiate / increase commercial air services at SWF in the mid 90’s (I believe it might have been a military field just prior). I don’t know if our work helped SWF grow commercial service as I left the consulting firm before the project completed. Fun fact: one of my colleagues on that project was…Scott Kirby.

  6. Suspending Kalamazoo instead of Lansing makes a bit more sense because the Lansing metro is considerably larger than the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek area. Also couple the fact that Kalamazoo is less than 90 minutes from LAN, GRR, SBN and maybe two hours from DTW, and it seems like from a catchment aspect there’s probably more overlap there than any other South Central Michigan airport.

    1. LAN metro is large, centrally located in MI, and has a large student population, though apparently Michigan State University is going mostly/fully virtual for the fall semester. Many travelers in that area also fly out of DTW (~90 miles away), and even Flint (~45 miles away) and Grand Rapids (which also has a substantial student population). As noted, Ka’zoo is ~2 hours from DTW with not a ton in between (a county with a sheriff so racist he made the NY Times, Ann Arbor, and a few other small towns).

      Finally, it’s also worth noting that with the exception of the Detroit metro area (once you get getting to around the west side of Ann Arbor) and a little traffic around the GRR and LAN areas in rush hour, highway traffic is usually not much of an issue, even in pre-COVID times, so driving 90 or 120 miles to get to an airport isn’t the big deal (or the risk) that it might be in the Northeast or SoCal.

      1. I-94 between DTW and Kalamazoo isn’t exactly “light” where you set the cruise and sleep through the drive…at least during daylight hours. That’s a heavy freight route between Detroit and Chicago. If you want an easy drive across Michigan I-96 between Grand Rapids and Detroit is much more relaxed. But the point remains. My family in Battle Creek almost exclusively flies out of DTW. The smaller city airports are for business travelers that need to be there and don’t have time to drive 2-hours.

    2. I was just reminded that American has a couple slots at Washington/National that must be used for Lansing service. (I think these were previously Sun Country’s, if I remember right.) So that alone would make it worth keeping Lansing.

      1. Yep, SY used to have a MSP-LAN-DCA flight. Was a very inexpensive way to visit family in Michigan as Delta doesn’t exactly put MSP-DTW flights on sale and Lansing is so easy compared to a mega airport like DTW. Was sad to see it go….although I was usually the only person to get off at LAN and not continue on to DCA so made sense why it was dropped.

  7. “I’m just going to assume that the good people of Roswell threatened to blow up all the MAX aircraft American has parked there if service wasn’t restored.”

    American no longer has any 737 MAXs in Roswell, they’ve all been moved to Tulsa.

  8. North Carolina locations being well-served goes back to the days of Piedmont Airlines whose hub was Charlotte.

  9. Most of these cities are AA only cities (all except Stewart, Lake Charles, Springfield, and Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo), which makes me wonder if part of this announcement is to trigger EAS RFPs from the DOT. Reminds me of when Delta announced exiting 24 cities after NW merger, but ended up staying in many of them after securing a subsidy. (SUX was part of that group as well).

    1. Are costs higher at airports where AA is the only carrier? If ground staff or facilities and equipment can be shared among several airlines at small airports then that might also influence these decisions.

      1. It’s a good idea, but most carriers would want their airline to be the first priority.

        On a side note, I believe ALL ramp work at HPN is handled by county employees (or at least used to be??).

      2. Jason,
        MIA airport costs are high because AA rebuilt the North Terminal which they use fairly recently. Airport construction costs are high; NW’s terminal complex at DTW is still the steal of the century in terms of the size and quality of facility for the money.

        Several airlines tried to sue Miami airport to not have to pay for AA’s new terminal but lost.

        As has been noted, as more carriers add service, costs will come down at MIA and FLL is spending alot of money to upgrade its terminals so the cost difference will narrow. MIA generally gets higher average fares to the same destination compared to FLL.

        As of now, UA has the most expensive set of hub airports based on cost per enplaned passenger followed by AA then DL then WN.

  10. I had no idea that there could be EAS flights without a subsidy. What’s the advantage? Do they get free slots or something at the destination airport?

    1. Chris – I can’t say I know for sure, but I feel like if it hits a certain level of boardings, then the subsidy no longer happens?

    2. I know in Hawaii, at one point Mokulele bid some of the EAS routes with no subsidy. I suspect if the airline thinks they can do it without losing money, offering no subsidy means they’re very likely to get the route award and keep competitors out. But the market is still considered EAS so the airline is still obligated to serve the market per the agreement and if they pull out or the agreement period ends, it goes back up for bid again and could end up being subsidized.

    3. EAS and subsidized service are technically two separate things. The DOT has determined many airports as being “essential” and if all carriers exited these cities the DOT would initiate a process to obtain service for that city, but as of yet that hasn’t been necessary. For example, Santa Barbara carries an essential air service designation, but has continuously been served since deregulation, and so the EAS process has never been triggered for it.

      When the last carrier (or the last carrier providing minimum required service) exits an EAS city, the DOT first requests non-subsidized proposals. Only (and usually) when it gets zero suitable non-subsidized proposals does it seek subsidized proposals.

      The advantage for a carrier to provide non-subsidized service could be to prevent another carrier from being selected to provide subsidized service.

      Periodically the DOT will remove EAS designation from cities. This used to very clearly spelled out, but over the years has become much murkier. It seems now cities are EAS until they’re declared not EAS. And even then if a city has enough political pull, it gets put back on the list.

  11. I looked into this for my coverage of the cities on the day they came out, pointing out that AA couldn’t drop service to Sioux City and Joplin as planned.

    AA had the EAS contracts for both cities when they were subsidized, but took them at a $0 subsidy in order to prevent others from offering subsidize service to compete. In both cases this was a competitive response to United.

    Joplin left subsidy in 2018. Sioux City left subsidy in 2016. (American had been receiving $1.2 million for SUX, but United offered to take on the service for $400,000. So American agreed to operate without subsidy, to block United to getting government funds for service there.

    AA could have served both cities without the EAS agreement, but then EAS funding could have subsidized a competitor.

  12. EAS defined a minimum level of air service for hundreds of medium/smallish airports as a safety net in case deregulation killed service. Lots of the airports on that defined list never saw service drop anywhere near that “minimum” level and never needed or received a cent of subsidy — Great Falls, Pensacola, Eugene, Chattanooga, Bangor, Evansville. So EAS really covered those airports too, right along with small places like Devils Lake and Rutland and Marion and Silver City. EAS only paid subsidy if nobody was willing to serve the airport with at least the “defined” minimal level of service for free. So through the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s as the industry changed a steady stream of new airports started getting EAS subsidy when nobody was willing to fly there without it. At the same time airports at the bottom end were leaving EAS as requirements tightened up. That safety net was still their until about 2011 when EAS was amended so that no new communities could be added to the subsidy roles. Since that time EAS has no longer been a safety net, and if your airport loses scheduled service you’re out of luck There have not been too many of those, most of them came with Skywest retried the EM2, and if EAS had still been accepting new places like Chico would probably be getting subsidized RJ’s and performing better than average for EAS. But the door for new cities has closed. Because Joplin and Sioux City did until pretty recently receive EAS subsidy they may be able to return — there’s precedence for that. But places like Dubuque and Williamsport never received a cent of subsidy all these years and so they are not eligible to start now.
    These are obviously remarkable times so I wouldn’t place bets on any direction the issue may go. This might just be the catalyst needed for something to change about small-city air service but it’s hard to guess the outcome.

  13. ” It is situated to attract from northern New York suburbs”

    I tried looking at the map, and between what’s offered at HPN, SWF, and BDL (in normal times, at least), it’s quite hard to find any spots on the map where HVN is any desirable at all (unless you’re just visiting Yale’s campus).

    And those are just the more secondary or even tertiary for their relevance to New Yorkers. There’s ISP, and even TTN/ACY for being points of consideration for those in central Jersey or the southern shoreline. If you’re EXTREMELY flexible traveler, some might even make the drive to ABE to save a few bucks.

    HVN becomes even less of a factor when BDL, and for a while, even SWF, were getting their own European nonstops. And all those airport codes later, i still haven’t mentioned the big 3. There’s no lack of choice that’s for sure.

  14. While some airlines are pulling out of markets (AA), and others are “assisting” foreign carriers refinance debt (Delta), Southwest now controls 34 of 51 passenger slots in LGB, and will commence service to Palm Springs (PSP) and Miami (MIA) this year. It’s nice to see an airline making strategic moves as opposed to Crisis Management 101.

    1. Wait and see if they actually end up using and keeping all those slots. It’s very hard to say right now if it’s really strategic or just a reflex to a whole lot of slots suddenly becoming available.

  15. Hello:

    I wanted to respond to the analysis regarding Roswell’s American Eagle service. It’s easy to be flippant about the aliens, as well as the MAX aircraft parked there. But contrary to the head-scratching reference, a little bit of digging will show why reversing or at least delaying ROW from the service cutback list is not far-fetched at all. Before I go on, I’ll share my background: long-time aviation journalist who moved into airline corporate communications, in non-airline corp comm roles after 9/11, and serving as air service development committee chair of my local airport authority. I also lived in New Mexico (but not Roswell) for seven years.

    Roswell secured American Eagle service in 2007 with an aggressive public/private financial partnership involving Roswell, Carlsbad and Artesia, NM. It became the model for many other communities that had been relying on EAS, SCASDP or other sources of funding. But perhaps more important to AA’s decision not to cut ROW, at least in this first round, are some of the key passenger targets: “*Roswell is a thriving community, home to a number of military and law enforcement agencies, including the New Mexico Military Institute, established in 1891, and the International Law Enforcement Academy. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center [where air marshals are trained], part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is located in nearby Artesia**.*” That is from American’s own website in 2010. In addition to the high amount of government traffic, Roswell and the surrounding area has major oil and cattle interests, both of which use the DFW service for flights to/from Texas and beyond.

    So UFOs notwithstanding, the AA/AE flights in and out of Roswell aren’t serving beep-beep-beeps from outer space. Rather, they are yield and revenue management success stories.

    1. writerross – I think you misunderstand. I was suggesting ROW was a head-scratcher for being on the list in the first place.

      1. Ah – ok. Thanks. I appreciate your clarification. It is a quirky community, but the air service support has been there from the getgo. Feel free to use any of the ROW background I dug up if you ever need it!

  16. Don’t give them any ideas about cutting service at CWA! That’s my tiny hometown airport that serves a large portion of north central Wisconsin. Driving 100 miles to a different airport in a blizzard would be unpleasant.

  17. To me, when AA, DL, or UA, or anyone else chooses to serve a city solely through some regional-alliance or code-sharing arrangement, it should be considered that the airline has stopped serving the city. It may keep seeing that service is maintained to the city, but if its offered only by an alliance or code-share airline, it should not be allowed to say the service is AA, DL, or UA.

    I will never accept that, for example, Mesa-dba United Express is service by UA. I know DOT makes the rules, but to me, this is an example of an “unfair or deceptive” practice.

    1. At least in the past several years, airlines have always been good at disclosing “operated by XXX airline” both in publicity as well as when booking a flight. Whether or not you want to fly on a partner airline is a different issue, but I can’t see how it’s unfair or deceptive.

  18. With the exception of Springfield IL, this analysis does not take into account other airlines that also serve the market and in some cases, offer more seats/flights than American Eagle. Kalamazoo and Lake Charles are the two most prominent – Kalamazoo: United Express also serves the Chicago market and Delta Connection serves Detroit with more seats (pre-pandemic) than the Chicago market combined.
    Lake Charles: United Express operates service to Houston with more flights than AA offered to DFW pre-pandemic. Huntington WV does have Allegiant Air service but no other network carriers operating to connection hubs. Pre-pandemic, Stewart/Newburgh was also served by network carrier Delta, but they too appear to have discontinued the airport and currently, Allegiant is the only active operator.

    Two of the markets were started with revenue guarantees – Del Rio and Stillwater. My guess is that unlike Cheyenne and Stockton, those guarantees continued through the pandemic but were not expanded to cover the light fall season.

    At both Sioux City and at Joplin, American was operating to both while receiving subsidy through Essential Air Service when a couple of years ago, filed to operate subsidy free (Joplin’s subsidy was minimal and a competitive bid occurred in Sioux City the last go around). While the process stipulates that they need to file to terminate service, it is almost certain that American will bid on both markets.

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