DFW International Airport is resuming service to five smaller cities as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s program to boost service to regional airports.
The federal government Small Community Air Services Development Program donated a combined $3.65 million to airports in Rochester, Minnesota; Great Falls, Mount/; Natchez, miss; Pasco, Washington, and Charleston, West Virginia, will begin flying nonstop routes to DFW International Airport.
Based in Fort Worth American airlines and its regional carriers will fly to Rochester, Great Falls, Pasco and Charleston, while Southern Express Airlines will operate the route to Natchez, Mississippi. Southern Express has an agreement with American Airlines that allows passengers to book flights, connect tickets and transfer baggage as if they were one airline.
Many small towns have lost service in the past two yearsmore recently because regional carriers for airlines like American have a shortage of pilots. American Airlines has parked about 100 regional planes and said it could take two to three years for the regional pilot shortage to subside. Indeed, regional pilots are recruited from larger network airlines with higher pay to compensate for pilots reaching mandatory retirement age.
In all, $16.9 million has been given to 25 airports across the country under the program to help create more flights at smaller airports. This is different from the Essential Air Service Program, which subsidizes flights to smaller airports that have no service with any other commercial airline.
Small community grants give money to airports to help with marketing expenses and guarantee a minimum income for airlines starting new routes.
A Texas regional airport has been chosen in Corpus Christi, which will have service to Las Vegas and Denver on low-cost carrier Sun Country.
For airports such as West Virginia’s Yeager International Airport in Charleston, its $600,000 grant will allow it to expand service into the western United States. The airport already has service on American, Delta, United and Spirit flying nonstop to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Orlando and Washington, D.C.
He also plans to add flights to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport with the money.
The route to DFW Airport connects the West Virginia community to American Airlines’ largest hub, where it serves a total of 239 destinations.
“We are thrilled and grateful to have been selected to receive this opportunity and to share it with our loyal passengers,” said a statement from Nick Keller, Director and CEO of West Virginia International Airport. “West Virginia’s economy is growing significantly, and we’ve noticed the growing demand for air service here. Excellent air service is essential to our region, our quality of life and our ability to attract new visitors and businesses.