ST. GEORGE, UTAH — Earlier this month, the US regional carrier SkyWest Airlines announced plans to leave 29 markets across the country. With this decision, many small cities across the U.S. may lose the only carrier that serves their airports.

SkyWest said the pilot shortage is one reason forcing the carrier to suspend many routes to the small communities around the country. A regional aviation expert said there was already a pilot shortage before the pandemic, and the pandemic worsened the problem.

But the main reason behind this decision is that those routes aren't profitable for the airline and it makes no sense for business, the same expert said.
“There’s not necessarily a civic responsibility to serve these markets so, if these airlines see unprofitability because of high surcharges at these small airports, high fuel prices, high labor prices, they just simply will pull out. It’s also harder for new pilots to get jobs on regional routes because they require more hours of training, which can be expensive,” he added.

We know by experience that losing air service can damage local economies, so some communities are paying airlines not to leave. Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University are spending $4 million over two years to keep American Airlines flights running there.

A US pilot union has called SkyWest Airlines’ decision to drop flights to 29 secondary cities is a blatant miscarriage” of the federal government’s nearly $2 billion in financial aid to the airline during the coronavirus pandemic.