Pilot shortage blamed as American Airlines ends flights between Flint and Charlotte

FLINT, MI — The pilot shortage that’s been blamed for widespread flight delays and cancellations this year is hitting close to home.

American Airlines says it will end its flights between Flint Bishop Airport and Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 7 and said the reason for the decision is directly tied to “regional pilot staffing challenges.”

American flies from Flint to Chicago and will continue those twice-daily flights, a spokesman for the airline told MLive-The Flint Journal, but the loss of Charlotte service means Bishop fliers will lose direct access to the country’s sixth-busiest airport and American’s second – largest hub.

“This loss is particularly hard because the route is successful and it’s a great hub that gives our community access to so many wonderful destinations,” Bishop Chief Executive Officer Nino Sapone said in a statement to The Journal. “We look forward to the return of the route, hopefully sometime in 2023.”

American has accounted for more than 20% of all departures in Flint this year, flying nearly 30,000 passengers on smaller jets under the American Eagle brand through May.

But the airline’s CEO told the Associated Press last month that American has been forced to take the equivalent of 100 such regional aircraft out of service because of the pilot shortage, which was fueled by early retirement incentives offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As air travel demand has increased, mainline carriers like American, Delta and United have hired pilots away from regional affiliates like American Eagle.

During an “Aviation State of the Industry” program at Bishop on Tuesday, Aug. 23, consultant Brad DiFiore said legacy carriers are quickly migrating away from smaller jets because — like larger aircraft — they require two pilots on board, making them less profitable than larger jets based in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

DiFiore said Bishop’s future growth will be tied to leisure travelers and low-cost, non-stop airlines like Allegiant Air, which has accounted for more than 70% of all flights from Flint this year.

“The economics of small airplanes are becoming untenable for airlines … They are migrating more and more to flying larger airplanes,” he said during the program.

Even though the loss of the Flint-to-Charlotte service is consistent with industry trends, it’s no less painful for Bishop boosters, who celebrated the inaugural flight between the two cities with a water cannon salute nearly three years ago.

The airport also provided American with incentives for adding the route, including ground-handling reimbursements, waived landing fees and marketing support.

Because Charlotte is an American hub, it provides fliers with an excellent connection point to other markets served by the airline, including Boston, Baltimore and Memphis as well as international flights to Barcelona, ​​Dublin and Montego Bay.

Read more at The Flint Journal:

Flint Bishop Airport’s target cities include LA, Denver, Atlanta

Flint Bishop Airport gets new American Airlines service to Charlotte, NC

Bishop Airport boosters cheer start of new American Airlines service to Charlotte

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.