United has now dropped 25 US cities during the pandemic
Small U.S. cities continue to lose airline service, as the pandemic has caused carriers to redraw their route maps in the face of a growing pilot shortage and other new pandemic realities.
Santa Rosa, California, is the latest city to lose a chunk of its air service, when United cuts its flights there in October, as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by the carrier.
United Express regional affiliate SkyWest Airlines will cease flying to the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (STS) on Oct. 28, when it ends service to San Francisco (SFO). Over the weekend, the carrier also scrapped plans to resume service between STS and its Denver (DEN) hub.
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SkyWest will continue to operate flights to STS for American Eagle and Alaska Airlines, but United's service to the city will end in the fall.
United has served the Sonoma County Airport since June 2017 with flights from San Francisco, according to Cirium timetables. The Denver route was added in March 2019, but both flights were suspended early in the pandemic.
The short 66-mile San Francisco puddle jumper resumed in August 2021, but the Denver one hasn't operated since April 2020.
Interestingly, the San Francisco-Santa Rosa route has historically been the shortest in the entire United network. (Some of the temporary regional triangle routes are shorter 66 miles.) That said, the airline likely maintained the link to SFO for customers looking to connect beyond the Bay Area to flights across the country and to international destinations.
Now, the Chicago-based carrier is pulling out of the airport entirely. Sonoma County is the gateway to California’s world-renowned wine country, and the airport has experienced notable growth during the pandemic thanks to its easy access to outdoor-friendly destinations with plenty of built-in social distancing.
New startup carrier Avelo Airlines added STS to its initial route map, and Aha!!, the leisure brand of long-time regional operator ExpressJet Airlines, recently landed at the airport for the first time on July 14, with nonstop service from its Reno/Tahoe (RNO) hub.
For its part, United confirmed the decision to exit the Santa Rosa market without giving a reason. "We’ve made the difficult decision to suspend service to Santa Rosa this fall and have already started working with customers on alternate plans," a statement from the carrier read.
Santa Rosa is just the latest in a string of station exits from United during the pandemic. In fact, the carrier has pulled out of 25 U.S. cities since the pandemic began, according to Cirium and Ailevon Pacific data. (You'll find the full list of city cuts at the bottom of the post.)
Earlier this month, United announced that it was ending service to Flagstaff, Arizona (FLG), and Texarkana, Arkansas (TXK) this fall. While weak demand is often cited as the reason for the service cuts, the move to pare back regional connectivity comes as the nationwide pilot shortage continues to have an outsized effect on the regional networks for the major U.S. carriers.
Though United is leading in the sheer number of city cuts, American filed plans last month to drop four U.S. cities and cut three routes in a big network adjustment. The airline also revealed that it is parking about 100 regional aircraft due to the pilot shortage. Delta Air Lines also dropped three small cities earlier this year due to the “ongoing travel demand impact from the pandemic.”
To combat the pilot shortage, many U.S. airlines, including new startups, have started giving big pay raises to pilots. United also recently opened the doors to its new flight school, the United Aviate Academy, which aims to build a strong pipeline of future three- and four-striped aviators.
United's 25 city cuts during the pandemic
Below you'll find a list of all the U.S. cities that United has exited during the pandemic, according to Cirium and Aivelon Pacific data.
- Abilene, Texas (ABI)
- Alexandria, Louisiana (AEX)
- College Station, Texas (CLL)
- Columbia, Missouri (COU)
- Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida (VPS)
- Evansville, Indiana (EVV)
- Flagstaff, Arizona (FLG)
- Kalamazoo, Michigan (AZO)
- Killeen, Texas (GRK)
- Lansing, Michigan (LAN)
- Monroe, Louisiana (MLU)
- Mosinee, Wisconsin (CWA)
- Ogdensburg, New York (OGS)
- Paine Field/Everett, Washington (PAE)
- Pierre, South Dakota (PIR)
- Plattsburgh, New York (PBG)
- Rochester, Minnesota (RST)
- San Angelo, Texas (SJT)
- San Luis Valley/Alamosa, Colorado (ALS)
- Santa Rosa, California (STS)
- Stockton, California (SCK)
- Tallahassee, Florida (TLH)
- Texarkana, Arkansas (TXK)
- Twin Falls, Idaho (TWF)
- Watertown, South Dakota (ATY)