Toledo, Ohio, has the unfortunate distinction of being the largest U.S. city, and one of the first, to entirely lose air service on a network carrier due to the pilot shortage.
American Airlines will end flights to Toledo from Chicago O’Hare on September 7 citing the “regional pilot staffing shortage,” a spokesperson confirmed Thursday. With American’s departure, Toledo will lose its sole connection to the global airline network — in other words, there are no longer one-stop flight connections to Los Angeles, New York, or Tokyo. Allegiant Air will continue to serve Toledo but the discounter serves a leisure traveler niche of people that only want to go to Orlando or Phoenix, and not further afield.
Other airports have lost air service since U.S. airlines began reporting a shortage of pilots last year. For example, American dropped Williamsport, Pa. — a city of less than 28,000 people in 2021, according to the U.S. Census — from its map in September 2021, Cirium schedules show. But most have either lost a network carrier, primarily United Airlines, or nonstop flights but retained other air service. In addition, the 29 airports that SkyWest Airlines is exiting are all part of the U.S. government’s essential air service program that mandates a replacement — like Southern Airways Express — be found before SkyWest ends flights.
Toledo is a unique case. Long the headquarters for Jeep and a decent size metropolis of more than 260,000 people, it is sandwiched between two much larger airports: Detroit at just over an 1 hour distant and Cleveland two hours away, according to Google Maps. So the loss of American is not a huge blow in the scheme of things but, with regional pilot costs rapidly rising, it hints at things to come.