A commercial pilot shortage has forced SkyWest Airlines to anticipate discontinuing flights to 29 Essential Air Service (EAS) communities across the U.S.

The EAS program was launched to guarantee that small communities were served by certified air carriers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). EAS ensures that 115 cities, in 48 different states, receive scheduled air service they normally wouldn’t receive from bigger air carriers.

SkyWest Airlines gave its 90-day notice to the DOT of its intent to discontinue service to 29 cities. All 29 of those airports are served by United Airlines, with SkyWest as the carrier.

SkyWest Airlines in 2020 signed a contract with the DOT to provide EAS through June 30, 2023.

SkyWest
A pilot shortfall has forced SkyWest Airlines to anticipate halting flights to 29 Essential Air Service communities across America.
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“As a result of an ongoing pilot staffing imbalance across the industry, SkyWest expects to discontinue service in several markets beginning this summer,” SkyWest said in a statement. “SkyWest has long been a supporter of the Essential Air Service program and the critical need it fills in our national transportation infrastructure.”

Over 60 percent of flight operations leaders listed a shortage of qualified pilots, according to a 2019 Oliver Wyman poll.

The poll found that aging pilots in America, combined with heavy use of early retirements, will spur a shortage of more than 12,000 pilots by 2023—13 percent of total demand.

Small cities that lose commercial air service will potentially lose tourist dollars, airport revenue and may become more remote.

SkyWest hopes to reconnect to the smaller cities once worker shortages are addressed.

“We are eager to work with officials toward solutions that would enable us to reconnect these communities to the National Air Transportation System in the future, and we are committed to remaining flexible and adjusting our plans if the situation improves more quickly than currently expected,” SkyWest said.

The following airports would be affected:

  • Decatur, Illinois (DEC)
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (TBN)
  • Laurel, Mississippi (PIB)
  • Meridian, Mississippi (MEI)
  • Clarksburg, West Virginia (CKB)
  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania (JST)
  • Dodge City, Kansas (DDC)
  • Liberal, Kansas (LBL)
  • North Platte, Nebraska (LBF)
  • Scottsbluff, Nebraska (BFF)
  • Greenbrier Valley, West Virginia (LWB)
  • Shenandoah Valley, Virginia (SHD)
  • Mason City, Iowa (MCW)
  • Fort Dodge, Iowa (FOD)
  • Hays, Kansas (HYS)
  • Salina, Kansas (SLN)
  • Cape Girardeau, Missouri (CGI)
  • Paducah, Kentucky (PAH)

Newsweek reached out to SkyWest for additional comment.

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