American Airlines said it will drop service to 15 smaller airports in October once stipulations from federal stimulus grants and loans end.
Fort Worth-based American plans to drop service to cities with low demand such as Del Rio in Texas, Greenville in North Carolina and Stillwater, Oklahoma due to low demand, destinations that have continued to receive flights during the COVID-19 pandemic because of promises tied to the $5.8 billion in grants and loans from the federal government.
The cuts would start Oct. 7 and are in effect through Nov. 3. American could reevaluate the routes at that point.
“The airline will continue to re-assess plans for these and other markets as an extension of the Payroll Support Program remains under deliberation,” the company said in a statement.
Nine of those cities only get service from one airline, including Del Rio and Florence, S.C. One other, Huntington, W. Va., only has alternative service on Allegiant Airlines, a low-cost carrier specializing in seasonal flights to vacation destinations, not broad domestic coverage.
American last week said that 30 cities could lose service in this fall if Congress doesn’t negotiate an extension of the CARES Act that includes more payroll support for the airline industry. The original plan passed in March included more than $50 billion for carriers, along with stipulations that airlines wouldn’t cut service to any cities and wouldn’t lay off employees.
But Congress left for recess at the end of last week without a deal for more stimulus and momentum is waning for another comprehensive package.
The second round of stimulus would give airlines payroll support through March 2021 and executives said they would support a deal that extends stipulations from the original CARES Act agreement, including rules about continuing airline service to all destinations.
American got $5.8 billion in grants and loans from the original CARES Act and later secured another $4.75 billion loan as part of the program.
But the airline says it has already burned through that money to the payrolls for more than 100,000 employees and lost $2.1 billion in the second quarter.
The 15 cities slated to lose service is half as many as the 30 unnamed cities American Airlines listed last week.
American is hoping to get payroll support to save about 20,000 employees that would need to be furloughed due to low demand in the fall. The company has already cut its administrative staff by 5,000 workers.
American’s plans could be a major blow to cities such as Del Rio, a city on the Texas-Mexico border that is three hours from the next closest airport. The city has a large employment base from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Laughlin Air Force Base and the nearby maquiladora industry. Del Rio International Airport Director Juan Carlos Onofre said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, twice daily flights to DFW International Airport were usually about 80% full.
“They are saying just for one month right now, but they are in the business of making money,” Onofre said. “We probably won’t be at pre-COVID levels for two to three years.”
Stopping service to Del Rio would also result in the direct loss of 22 workers at the airport including American Airlines employees, refueling workers and maintenance. That includes eight TSA agents who would no longer be needed if a commercial airline doesn’t fly to Del Rio.
“Then there is everything else that revolves around the airport like people staying in hotels,” Onofre said.
Below is a full list of cities that would lose service and their respective airport codes.
- Del Rio, Texas, DRT
- Dubuque, Iowa, DBQ
- Florence, S.C., FLO
- Greenville, N.C., PGV
- Huntington, W.Va., HTS
- Joplin, Mo., JLN
- Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Mich., AZO
- Lake Charles, La., LCH
- New Haven, Conn., HVN
- New Windsor, N.Y., SWF
- Roswell, N.M., ROW
- Sioux City, Iowa, SUX
- Springfield, Ill., SPI
- Stillwater, Okla., SWO
- Williamsport, Pa., IPT