Regional airports have lost a large number of flights

Even when airports are served by multiple airlines, “when you look at the route level, there may only be one option,” Mr. Samson said, citing Flint as an example. Allegiant Airlines, American, and United all serve the airport there, but American and United only fly between Flint and Chicago. Allegiant flies to 10 destinations, and while travelers may find other choices and lower fares at major airports, “they may have to drive a few hours,” he said.

The exits have left a handful of airports, like that in Dubuque, with little or no commercial passenger service. The federal government’s Essential Air Services Program subsidizes airlines to ensure service for about 100 communities, but Dubuque is not on that list.

Todd Dalsing, director of Dubuque Regional Airport, said American Airlines has varied the times of its scheduled flights to Chicago, its only destination from Dubuque, over the past two years. On September 7th, flights were completely suspended. “We are working hard to restore a sustainable commercial service,” said Mr. Dalsing. This month, Avelo Airlines, a new low-cost start-up, announced that it would offer two flights per week between Dubuque and Orlando, Florida, starting in January.

Meanwhile, Dubuque County’s 100,000 people have to drive 70 miles to Cedar Rapids Airport or three hours to Chicago O’Hare International Airport to fly anywhere.

There are some activities that are mitigating the cuts. Avelo and Breeze Airways, another low-cost startup, are expanding, for example. The companies are flying larger newer jets so they can profitably serve some of the cities, which regional carriers can’t, said Lukas Johnson, Breeze’s chief commercial officer. The company has started serving about 30 cities since launching in 2021. Avelo also flies to about 30 destinations. Frontier Airlines also added new routes to its list this fall, some to smaller airports.

The local economy is feeling the effects of the cuts. Molly Grover, President of the Dubuque Region Chamber of Commerce, said the disruption to air travel is “a huge concern and a major challenge” as it makes it more difficult for companies to meet with business partners, transport their employees and attract investment and employees. “Businesses need an efficient, convenient and reliable commercial air service to thrive and thrive,” she said. “A 21st century business expects air services.”