Even as passenger numbers are tentatively on the rise in the US, Delta Air Lines is choosing to take advantage of the Department of Transporation’s (DoT) easing of conditions for minimal flight schedule requirements. Eleven of Delta’s domestic services to smaller US cities will be suspended from July 8th onwards.
The DoT decided in May to allow airlines to drop the equivalent of 5% (or five cities, whichever is larger) of their domestic network, despite having received payroll grants. These exemptions are valid until September 30th, when the stipulations of the CARES package runs out. Airlines will then be free to cancel routes at will.
Delta Air Lines announced late last week that it is taking advantage of the new rules. One month from now, 11 smaller US cities will be dropped from the carrier’s network.
“As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta continues to face an unprecedented impact to our business, and suspending operations at these airports will reduce costs where customer demand is low,” said Sandy Gordon, Senior Vice President for Domestic Airport Operations in a statement seen by Simple Flying.
“We will move quickly to work with affected customers, whose patience we sincerely appreciate as we navigate this unprecedented time together,” she continued.
Flights to 11 smaller US cities will be suspended from July 8th. The affected airports are:
- Aspen, CO (ASE)
- Bangor, ME (BGR)
- Erie, PA (ERI)
- Flint, MI (FNT)
- Fort Smith, AR (FSM)
- Lincoln, NE (LNK)
- New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort, NC (EWN)
- Peoria, IL (PIA)
- Santa Barbara, CA (SBA)
- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA (AVP)
- Williston, ND (XWA)
None of them will be without service as at least one other carrier will continue to fly in accordance with DOT conditions. In addition, Delta will no longer fly to Ottawa (YOW) in Canada from June 21st, suspending the service indefinitely.
According to The Points Guy, Delta Air Lines will reevaluate services to the domestic destinations come September 30th.
The carrier will then also reexamine the suspension of routes to ten metropolitan cities served by multiple airports. Delta has previously consolidated flights to single airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Norfolk, and Cleveland, San Fransisco, and two in New York.
CARES conditions relaxed
Under the CARES act guidelines, airlines that received federal payroll assistance had to maintain minimal air service to all the US cities they served before the crisis. These rules caused many planes to take off next to empty. This, in turn, raised concerns both in terms of unnecessary expenses and environmental impact.
After applications from commercial aviation representatives, the DOT agreed to relax the rules. It is also allowing Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines to suspend similar services, along with seven smaller carriers.
Southwest has notably not applied for an exemption and continues, so far, to fly to all destinations, albeit on a heavily reduced schedule.