Avoca, PA (December 24, 2021) – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP) has received word from United Airlines that effective March 4, 2022, United’s twice daily service to Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) will be replaced with twice daily service to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
The service between AVP and EWR will be provided by Republic Airlines with 70-seat Embraer 170 Regional Jets. The Embraer 170 aircraft does feature two-class seating, which was not provided on the IAD route, and would be a 40% increase in daily seats from AVP.
AVP officials have reached out to United and thanked them for their continued support in providing service to AVP and Northeastern Pennsylvania travelers, and assured them that their partnership is valued.
United will continue to provide daily service from AVP to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). All indications from United is that the IAD service would return to AVP in 2023.
From a December 22, 2021 article from Airline Weekly, United Airlines is dropping 14 routes to its Washington Dulles hub as the regional pilot shortage in the U.S. gets worse.
The Chicago-based Star Alliance carrier will suspend service in March between Dulles and Akron-Canton, OH; Asheville, NC; Greensboro, NC; Wilmington, NC; Bangor, ME; Erie, PA; Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; State College, PA, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; Greenville-Spartanburg, SC; Ithaca, NY; and Milwaukee, WI. None of the destinations will lose United service entirely, with five cities even gaining new service to Newark to replace the Dulles flights, and most say the airline intends to restore the routes in 2023.
United spokesperson Kimberly Gibbs said the changes were part of its continual effort to “closely match supply with demand.”
The cuts are the latest fallout from the worsening regional pilot shortage. Speaking at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on December 15, 2021, United CEO Scott Kirby said the airline’s regional affiliates had grounded more than 100 aircraft — most 50-seat regional jets — because there were not enough pilots to fly them. His comments followed similar ones he made at the Skift Aviation Forum in November, which came after the airline had already cut at least eight smaller destinations from its map due to a lack of crews.
And United isn’t alone. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker confirmed of regional pilot hiring issues at the Skift Forum as well. And Delta Air Lines is exiting at least three cities — Grand Junction, CO, Lincoln, NE, and Cody, WY — and suspending another 10 routes, including ones to Des Moines, IA, as well as to Lansing, MI and Saginaw, MI.
“There has been a looming pilot shortage in the U.S. for the last decade, and during the pandemic it became a shortage,” Kirby said at the hearing. Major carriers, like United, have been hiring up regional pilots in droves to replenish their ranks after thousands of early retirements or voluntary departures during the pandemic. However, that has left regionals scrambling with an already limited supply of new pilots.
“I’m a little less optimistic that the situation will reverse itself unless we do something to address the shortage of pilots,” Kirby said at the Senate hearing.
Suspending routes appears to United’s immediate response to the shortage. While no additional cities will lose service from the carrier entirely, its Dulles hub — an airport specifically named by Kirby as in need of major upgrades at the Senate hearing — appears to be bearing the brunt of the latest round of reductions.
All of the suspended routes were operated by Air Wisconsin, an exclusive Bombardier CRJ200 operator, according to Cirium schedules. The airline saw its workforce cut by a quarter to 1,350 at the end of October compared with the end of 2019, U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data shows.
Based on current schedules — the cuts represent nearly 11 percent of United’s departures from Dulles in March, Cirium data show. However, the overall schedule reductions may be greater as other cities could lose frequencies as a result of the reduction in overall connectivity.