By Joey Gerardi
Cape Air request Community Terminations
The Essential Air Service – or EAS – communities have been taking a major hit over the past eight months. First Boutique Air requested to terminate Jackson, Tenn. followed by Show Low, Ariz. Altoona, Penn., and Pendleton, Oregon, although the latter three were just so the carrier could get a higher subsidy and is in the process, they are planning to leave Jackson in the next month or so. Boutique cited the termination due to rising costs and pilot staffing issues.
This was then followed by SkyWest’s massive announcement of the request to terminate 31 EAS communities across the country from Plattsburgh, N.Y. in the east to Alamosa in the Rocky Mountains. These negotiations and the EAS process are still going on, and EAS bids for 29 of the communities are due on May 11, 2022. SkyWest cited the reason for the termination request as pilot and staffing shortages.
Cape Air is now the third airline that has requested to terminate EAS cities due to pilot staffing concerns. They have requested to terminate the EAS communities of Quincy, Ill. and Burlington, Iowa. The latter of which the carrier has only stated service to just three months ago, on Feb. 1, 2022.
Staffing and more specifically pilot staffing has been a big concern and the root cause of hundreds of flight cancellations, not only for carriers in these EAS communities but flights to larger cities as well. There is one EAS-focused airline however that has said they face no issues with pilots shortages at all, and are continuing to grow; Southern Airways Express.
In an interview with Southern Airways Express and Mokulele Airlines Chief Marketing Officer Keith Sisson, this is what they had to say regarding pilot shortages:
“At Southern Airways and Mokulele, we create pilots. We train the first officers and help them build hours until they are qualified to become captains for us. Then, we pass them along to SkyWest, our regional airline partner. When a young pilot starts with us, they have a fast pathway to the major airlines, so we have hundreds of pilots applying every month to join our team. Southern and Mokulele are uniquely positioned to survive and thrive during the worldwide pilot shortage—our passengers can book with confidence that they will have a plane and crew ready to go when they are!”
For the time being, Cape Air is required to stay in both communities and continue operating flights as they are contracted to do. From here, what will usually happen is the DOT will deny the request until a replacement carrier can be found, at which point the EAS bidding process will begin and other airlines will submit bids for the community.
One thing is for sure, with the bids for 29 EAS communities due in less than a week, and a third airline requesting to terminate multiple EAS contracts, there has never been a more confusing time for people that live in these communities. While it is confusing for those living in the communities, for AvGeeks and EAS enthusiasts like myself, there has never been a more exciting time to watch the EAS scene unfold.