American Airlines will stop flying to Toledo, 2 other cities due to pilot shortage

Kyle Arnold
Dallas Morning News

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is dropping Toledo and two other small airports from its schedule, citing a shortage of pilots.

American Airlines will stop flying to Toledo, Ohio, along with Ithaca and Islip, N.Y., on Sept. 7, making cuts to three airports serviced by regional carriers that have been hardest hit by the shortage of pilots being felt across the industry, the company said.

American Airlines is the only commercial carrier that provides service to Toledo, the northwest Ohio airport about 50 miles south of Detroit.

“In response to the regional pilot shortage affecting the airline industry, American Airlines has made the difficult decision to end service,” American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Koos said in a statement. “We’re extremely grateful for the care and service our team members provided to our customers in Islip, Ithaca and Toledo, and are working closely with them during this time.”

Koos said the airline is contacting customers scheduled to fly to those cities after Sept. 7 to make alternate travel plans.

Carriers are facing a severe shortage of pilots due to thousands of retirements, along with buyouts during the COVID-19 pandemic that reduced payrolls amid lean financial times.

Airlines are now ramping up schedules in response to unexpectedly robust demand from travelers. That shortage of pilots has hit regional carriers, such as those under the American Eagle brand, the hardest. That’s because pilots from regional carriers are often recruited to work at mainline carriers such as American, Delta and United.

Pay, benefits and schedules are better at mainline carriers, and provide opportunities to advance faster to longer and international routes, which are more efficient for pilots who get paid for time in the air. That has forced American and other carriers to cut back on the use of regional carriers.

American CEO Robert Isom said the company has parked about 100 planes at regional carriers, even though customer demand is high.

In September 2019, about 52% of all American Airlines flights were operated by regional carriers, whether it be regional carriers owned by American Airlines such as Envoy, Piedmont and PSA Airlines, or contracted carriers such as SkyWest, Mesa, Republic and Compass. For September 2022, only 46% of flights are on regional carriers, according to Cirium.

American flies to Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport on Envoy, which flies American Eagle jets.

American flies to both Ithaca Tompkins International Airport and Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip on its Piedmont brand.

American flies from Toledo to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the carrier’s largest hubs.

American connects Ithaca to the rest of its network through its hub in Philadelphia. Ithaca is also served by competitors Delta and United. American also flew to Islip through Philadelphia.

Both Frontier and Dallas-based Southwest Airlines fly to the Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, along with Frontier. Each of the airports losing service are about an hour’s drive from another airport where American flies.

American Airlines has made a number of service cuts in recent months due to both a shortage of pilots and airplanes.

American has raised pay at regional airlines and put money into programs for student pilots, but that hasn’t stopped the reduction in pilot numbers. American recently cut a scheduled route from DFW International Airport to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Meanwhile, American cut a deal in February worth up to $4 million with Stillwater, Oklahoma, to keep flying there.