Airline merges cause cuts at small and midsize airports

May 29, 2014 |

Those who leave for business travel from small and midsize airports may find the lines getting longer as a result of significant service cuts. According to Bloomberg, although there are a number of financial benefits that result when carriers merge, there are also service cuts that affect the country’s smaller airports.

The source reported that travelers who leave from these small and midsize airports are seeing fewer flight options when airline service is reduced.

Mergers have arisen due to a number of economic causes. According to Bloomberg, a rise in jet fuel prices make it rational for carriers to join forces and focus on the routes that will provide the companies with the most revenue – often large cities with major airports. The report by the GAO showed that 88 percent of all boardings take place at 62 airports across the country. At airports which sell at least one percent of the world’s annual boarding, the number of flights offered only dropped by 9 percent.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a new reported regarding flight cuts and mergers in the last seven years, highlighting smaller airport communities and the changes those facilities are seeing. According to the report, almost 36 midsize airports in cities such as New Orleans, Pittsburgh and San Antonio lost 25 percent of flights since 2007. There were also 23 airports that lost all air service as a result of deep service cuts as well as 76 airports that lost 20 percent of flights after 2007. Airlines are also leaving smaller airports because the use of small regional jets is becoming less common due to population shifts to bigger areas.

While there were a good number of smaller airports that lost flights, not every one suffered due to airline mergers. Bloomberg reported that airports in the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which includes rural airports with less than 100,000 commercial passengers, saw increases in flights by as much as 20 percent in some areas.

Due to increased funding by Congress to these rural airports in the EAS program, are experiencing significant shifts in air service. According to the source, funding for the program as doubled since 2002 and totaled $232 million in 2013.

Airports participating in the program received approximately $2 million each year, helping to boost the changes in air service.

Major US carriers
While there used to be seven major airlines in the U.S., mergers have caused that number to dwindle to four carriers that see nearly 75 percent of domestic travelers. According to Independent Travelers, these airlines include American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.