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Severe Pilot Shortage Cited For Dramatic Loss of U.S. Regional Flights
A recent report from the Regional Airline Association (RAA) noted that 76 percent of U.S. airports lost air services when comparing figures from October 2022 with the same month in 2019. Of those 324 airports, the average loss equated to 31 percent of flights that were operated three years prior. The RAA cites a ‘severe pilot shortage’ for the trend of reduced services to small and medium-sized communities which its report concludes is accelerating given the future demand for pilots.
Faye Malarkey Black the chief executive officer of the RAA said, “We now have more than 500 regional aircraft parked without pilots to fly them and an associated air service retraction at 324 communities. Fourteen airports have lost all scheduled commercial air service – a number that is still rising.”
In the RAA report findings, fifteen U.S. states rely on regional airlines for 75 percent of air services. Mississippi (94 percent), West Virginia (93 percent) and Vermont (92 percent) take the top three positions for those states most reliant on regional airlines. A further 15 states including Michigan (60 percent), Ohio (56 percent) and Illinois (54 percent) rely on regional air services for 50 percent or more of air services.
Only this week, Burlington, VT’s International Airport lost its winter seasonal service to Orlando and summer service to Denver operated by Frontier Airlines. Vermont news website VTDigger noted that the airport – which recently opened a new $18 million new terminal wing – was one of 161 airports in the U.S. that had services reduced by over 25 percent in October compared to October 2019. The airport does still have links with Florida and Colorado with an American Airlines service to Miami and United Airlines to Denver.
Scheduled network carrier regional aircraft utilization as measured in Block Hours (BH) has dropped for the second half of this year. The RAA report identifies 50-seat RJ aircraft BH reducing by 44 percent at American Airlines and 29 percent at Delta Air Lines. The same aircraft BH is down 13 percent at United Airlines with the Dual Class RJ BH down 30 percent at the carrier. Though the decrease in BH for these aircraft may not be solely attributable to pilot shortage or retraction of services, but actually the scheduled retirement from an airline’s fleet as reported in Airline Geeks last month.
RAA CEO Black warned, “We are on the precipice of a wholesale collapse of small community air service. It has already begun, with 60 U.S. airports losing more than half their air service since 2019. Every policymaker in the Administration and Congress must set aside politics and address this crisis today.”
According to the RAA website, the association ‘provides a unified voice of advocacy for North American regional airlines aimed at promoting a safe, reliable and strong regional airline industry and serves as an important support network connecting regional airlines and industry business partners, enabling them to share best practices.’
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