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Holiday flight demand can’t save regional airports


The person standing at the airport gate looking out the plane window

image: Spencer Platt (beautiful pictures)

Again holiday season in the post-pandemic world, another world Traffic spikes mixed with record airfares and service cuts. And while all airports are tackling those problems differently, smaller airports are particularly hard hit.

The total number of flights at 59 regional airports is only half of what it was before the pandemic, according to data from the Regional Aviation Association. NBC News. Meanwhile, 112 airports have reduced service by at least a third. New York’s Ithaca Tompkins International Airport is a microcosm of what’s happening at these smaller facilities around the country:

For example, New York’s Ithaca Tompkins International Airport lost its twice-daily American Airlines flight to Philadelphia on September 6. On the remaining United Airlines routes to Newark, New Jersey and Delta routes Air Lines to Detroit, Hopper has found fares for Thanksgiving and Christmas at Tompkins will be twice the national average for domestic return flights. According to Hopper, Thanksgiving return airfares from Ithaca to U.S. destinations averaged $552, 39% more than at the same time in 2019. And Christmas flights from the city cost 10% higher than in 2019, at $605.

Blame it on the ongoing pilot shortage, fueled by a panic among airlines to downsize in the early days of the pandemic without foresight for long-term business. That leaves fewer flights than ever before in recent memory, and flights that still have all-time high prices. Last month, the average airfare was 43 percent higher than it was in the same period in 2021.

That’s despite the fact that demand for vacation travel is still pretty strong. in it the newest annual holiday travel survey, Deloitte found that “intention to fly domestically increased slightly.” However, the overall number of Americans wanting to travel is clearly worse, at 31% compared with 42% last year – and financial insecurity is seen as a top concern across all ages. .

The hub airport has the mass to weather the storm. But the local area is seeing the steepest drop in traffic. 25 major airports have lost about 16% of their traffic, according to RAA through Weekly travelcompare October 2022 to October 2019. That doesn’t sound very good, but it gets worse as you move down the list:

According to the RAA, 51 small hub airports, defined as those that receive between 0.05% and 0.25% of US passengers, experienced a 19% drop in traffic.

Of the airports that receive between 10,000 departures annually and 0.05% of US passengers, 171 flights were lost. The average reduction at those airports is 35%.

Among the smallest commercial airports, handling between 2,500 and 10,000 passengers a year, 54 have lost flights. The average drop at those airports was 44%.

Fourteen airports, the RAA noted, have lost all commercial air services since October 2019.

For what it’s worth, Travel Weekly adds that 50-seater planes are ready began to lose sympathy for the largest airlines in the United States even before COVID-19. Consensus on these most compact commercial planes is rather poor, because they are cramped and do not offer first-class seating. Earlier this year, I flew from my local airport – shout ABE! — to Washington Dulles in a CRJ-200. It’s quick, easy and to be honest, as someone who has never and probably never will get the chance to fly first class, I just want to be able to fly. You won’t know, United removed that route right after my trip.

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