November 3. Since the start of the pandemic, major airlines have been tweaking their domestic schedules in response to fluctuating demand, which includes adjusting their arrangements with the regional carriers that operate feeder flights to their connecting hubs. And it’s the country’s smallest communities that continue to bear the brunt of these changes.
In the latest example, SkyWest, one of six regional carrier partners that operates under the United Express banner, confirmed this week that it would discontinue service effective January 3 to two cities in South Dakota, Pierre and Watertown. In addition, it’s dropping Twin Falls, Idaho, from its route system on November 30.
Another airport, in Joplin, Missouri, is losing one United Express flight to Houston, but it will continue to be served by SkyWest on flights to Chicago and Denver.
These destinations are among the 100 cities that qualify for federal subsidies under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program because they would otherwise be in danger of losing all commercial flights, due to low travel volume.
But at least the cities that SkyWest is exiting aren’t losing all airline service, a spokesperson for SkyWest tells AFAR. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which administers the EAS program, has given the contract to operate the former United Express routes to Denver Air Connection, another regional line.