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American Airlines plans to drop service at Dubuque Regional Airport in September, the fourth city the carrier has cut service to amid an ongoing shortage of pilots.
American Airlines will stop flying to the Eastern Iowa city on Sept. 7, the same day it cuts service to Islip and Ithaca in New York and Toledo, Ohio, a spokesman for the company said Tuesday.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines flew to Dubuque through its hub at Chicago O’Hare Airport and was the only airport flying to the city.
It flew two flights a day on an Embraer 145 jet that carried 50 passengers through its regional carrier Envoy Airlines, which flew under the American Eagle brand.
Because American Airlines is the only carrier to fly to Dubuque Regional, its loss would leave the metropolitan area of about 99,000 people without air service.
The nearest commercial airport to Dubuque is Cedar Rapids’ Eastern Iowa Airport, about 85 minutes away and which American Airlines still services.
“We’ll proactively reach out to customers scheduled to travel after this date to offer alternate arrangements,” American Airlines spokesman Brian Metham said in a statement.
Airlines across the country are facing a shortage of pilots. Regional carriers are being hit the hardest because the pay is lower than their mainline counterparts such as American, United and Delta airlines.
Airlines across the world are facing a wave of retiring baby boomer-age pilots, and large carriers are restaffing by recruiting from regional airlines.
United Airlines cut service to 29 cities this summer because of a shortage of pilots, too, and it’s unclear when service will return.
Regional airlines fly 40 percent of the country’s commercial flights, according to the Regional Airline Association.
Carriers such as American Airlines rely on regional airlines such as Envoy, Piedmont and PSA to connect small cities to larger hubs, such as those in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Charlotte, N.C.
Pilot hiring experts have warned that the shortage of pilots won’t be resolved for several more years, partly because it takes years to train new pilots and partly because carriers are expecting even more pilot retirements over the next three or four years.
American Airlines and other carriers have boosted pay for regional pilots and invested money into student pilots to help them through schooling but the shortages still persist.
American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said the company has parked about 100 regional jets due to the pilot staffing issue.