Legacy airlines have left 74 regional airports since the start of COVID-19, changing the economic dynamics and leaving smaller airports without commercial flights.
Behind the trend: Airlines withdrawal from regional airports is a growing concern, with heightened labor, fuel and maintenance costs making 50-seat jets uneconomic for major airlines.
* Successful regions like Williamsport lost their airline service when American Airlines left in 2021.
* Pilots shortage and the shift in airline economics are the significant reasons for this growing trend, according to aviation consultant Ailevon Pacific.
Impacted regions: As regional airports are running out of options for passengers, it’s likely to change how many Americans start their journeys.
* Williamsport Regional Airport has had no commercial airline flights since American Airlines left.
* Despite receiving $55 billion in funds during COVID, airlines are pulling out of smaller markets, leaving rural airports like Williamsport unsupported.
The wider implications: The lack of air service not only affects the travel industry but also other businesses that rely on the airports.
* World Travel International, based inside the Williamsport airport terminal, has lost all walk-by traffic.
* Lack of airlines service has also been a big issue for site consultants who look at potentially bringing businesses to Williamsport.
Hope ahead: Richard Howell, the executive director at Williamsport Regional Airport, believes that the Essential Air Service (EAS) program could provide a solution.
* The EAS provides grants to airlines to fly to locations where profitability is challenging.
* Howell intends to get Williamport back into the program, which he believes could help restore airline service to his region over time.
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