American Airlines slows plans to cut service to three small cities it targeted

After announcing plans to drop service to 15 cities, including Stillwater, Oklahoma, American Airlines decided to slow its plans in three of the cities. It’s pausing plans to drop service in Roswell, New Mexico, Sioux City, Iowa and Joplin, Missouri.

But it’s moving ahead with plans to drop all service at the airport in Stillwater.

The Fort Worth-based airline said it will hold off on dropping service to Roswell, N.M., while it talks with city and airport leaders there. American is also pausing plans to leave Sioux City, Iowa, and Joplin, Mo., but still intends to drop service if it gains Department of Transportation approval reported the Dallas Morning News.

Sioux City and Joplin are deemed “essential air service” cities — a designation that dates back to the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978. The federal government provides subsidies to some smaller cities to ensure a minimal level of air service in locations that otherwise might not be profitable.

“In the absence of an extension of the Payroll Support Program, we’re faced with a host of difficult decisions to right-size our airline, given the significant and sustained drop in demand we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Nichelle Tait. “While our flights to Roswell are among those that have suffered when it comes to demand and profitability, we have been in touch with local officials and will defer our decision to suspend service to the market as those conversations are ongoing.”

With American Airlines as the only airline flying into Roswell, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the city relies on the carrier for tourism, economics and getting local residents across the country.

“It’s more than 2 1/2 hours to get to the next nearest city with air service,” Kintigh said. “It would be a major loss for us.”

Tait said American Airlines hasn’t decided how long it will continue air service to Roswell. Small cities looking to maintain air service often have financial tools available, such as the ability to reduce landing and gate fees or spending marketing dollars to promote routes and airline service.

Roswell is also an important stop for American Airlines because it houses dozens of parked planes at Roswell International Air Center, including its idled 737 Max jets.

Source: Dallas Morning News