Airlines have had to make several changes over the last two years to match customer demand amid the COVID pandemic. But even with demand back at a pre-COVID heights, major U.S. airlines like Delta, American, and United have all started cutting flights from their schedule for a number of reasons. United Airlines dropped some flight routes in late November and still has more planned for the first week of January—and now the airline has announced even more flight cuts. United plans to drop 14 different flights from one major city next March. Read on to find out more about which city is getting several of its routes axed by this airline.
The Washington Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., is about to have fewer flights from United Airlines. The airline confirmed that it is dropping 14 different flight routes from this airport hub to various cities across the U.S., Insider reported. According to the news outlet, United will no longer service flights from Washington, D.C., to Akron, Ohio; Erie Pennsylvania; Greenville, South Carolina; Grands Rapids Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Bangor, Maine. Three North Carolina cities will also lose United flights from Washington Dulles: Greensboro, Wilmington, and Asheville.
At the same time, five cities are being dropped from Washington, D.C., and moved to Newark, New Jersey. Instead of serving Ithaca, New York, and Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Scranton, and State College in Pennsylvania from Washington Dulles, United Airlines will now service new routes to these cities from Newark Airport. All of these changes will occur in March 2022, according to Airline Weekly.
United Airlines said that a pilot shortage was one of the contributing factors to this set of flight cuts. Scott Kirby, the airline’s CEO, recently explained in a Senate hearing that United was having to drop smaller cities from its network because a pilot shortage has grounded about 100 of its regional jets. According to Kirby, “there’s not enough pilots” to fly these planes.
“As we continue to evaluate our network and closely match supply with demand, United is making adjustments to our East Coast operations, including suspending service between Washington Dulles/D.C. and several regional markets, and shifting some service from Washington, D.C., to New York/Newark,” a United spokesperson told Insider.
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Some passengers might not notice a difference in the amount of United Airlines flights from Washington Dulles, as the airline told Insider that it will still be operating about as many routes as it did two years ago. “After these adjustments, United will still serve nearly the same number of destinations from Dulles that it did in 2019,” the airline’s spokesperson explained to the news outlet.
According to United, the carrier serviced 107 destinations from Washington Dulles in March 2019 and even with the newly cut routes, it will still be serving 105 destinations from this airport in March 2022.
While the COVID pandemic hasn’t helped matters, experts say the pilot shortage was looming before last year. Some pilots were laid off in 2020, but many are also reaching the mandatory U.S. pilot retirement age of 65 at the same time. “It’s not something that’s really new or something that’s been driven by the pandemic, it’s something that has been emerging for a while and has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Nicole Carriere with United Airlines told NBC-affiliate WCNC.
Guenter Trautmann, a flight instructor with Alpha One Air Services in Concord, North Carolina, also told WCNC that pilots are not easy to replace. According to Trautmann, the minimum number of flight hours required and the financial burden make it hard to start out in the career.
“It takes you probably about two to two and a half years really to start from scratch,” Trautmann said, adding that aspiring pilots also have to finance their own training, which ended up costing him about $85,000 to $95,000.
But this pilot shortage is not just affecting United. Delta recently cut back several flights in Georgia due to pilot shortages, CBS 46 reported. “I’m a little less optimistic that the situation will reverse itself unless we do something to address the shortage of pilots,” Kirby said during the hearing.