Why are small American airports in big trouble?

Small American airport

The U.S. Government Accountability Office have unleashed a new report which reveals that flights, and plane seats, were down in comparison to the figures available seven years ago.

The report highlighted that smaller destinations were most tarnished,  with flights down as much as 24 percent and seats down as much as 18 percent since 2007.  Rising high fuel prices, are said to be one part of the biggest problems, with costs quadrupling from 2002 to 2012, meaning fuel  now far exceed labour costs.   Susan Kurland, assistant secretary for aviation at the Department of Transportation continues; “while the largest airlines have shown a remarkable ability to adapt and earn profits the last four years, the reality is that many small communities are confronting increasing challenges in maintaining their desired level of air service.”

In addition to this,president and CEO of Republic Airways Holdings, said “economic pressures on regional airlines have been exacerbated by a shortage of entry-level airline pilots.”  This was evident when Republic were trying to hire 500 new pilots, and whilst 2,400 applied, only 450 met the company’s standard.  However, Air Line Pilots Association President Lee Moak suggested, “there’s no shortage of qualified airline pilots, only a shortage of pilots willing to work for the “near poverty” wages that regional airlines offer entry-level first officers.”

The economic pressures have meant that major air carriers have also avoided using the types of planes which serve smaller communities, and therefore only carry 19 to 1000 passengers.  According to a study by  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these types of journeys are 40 to 60 per cent less fuel efficient on a per passenger basis, in comparison to larger planes going to major airports.

Economic pressures, and airline merging has meant that only government-subsidized air service to rural communities has been increasing, and this has only been in it’s attempt to prevent certain smaller airports from losing profit entirely. What are your thoughts on this latest report? Is it a case that regional airports have become less adaptable?

[Picture: Nicola] 

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