American Airlines bankruptcy shouldn’t affect local air service

American Airlines bankruptcy shouldn’t affect local air service

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Passengers aboard American Eagle Flight 3238 get comfortable in their seats as they await takeoff Tuesday at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register

By TIM LANDIS (tim.landis
The State Journal-Register

The bankruptcy filing of American Airlines should have little short-term effect on downstate commuter connections, the executive director of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield said Tuesday.
The bankruptcy filing of American Airlines should have little short-term effect on downstate commuter connections, the executive director of Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport said Tuesday.

In fact, said Mark Hanna, local airport officials are building a case for a third American Eagle flight to Dallas-Fort Worth based on a nearly 22 percent increase in passenger numbers since American Eagle service in Springfield switched from Chicago to Dallas in April.
“The bankruptcy organization could take a year, or two years. Who knows?” said Hanna.
In addition to Springfield, American Eagle serves the Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana airports.

American Eagle switched two local flights from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Dallas-Fort Worth last April with the help of a $750,000 federal air-service grant to the airport to support the new flights.
Through October, 28,373 passengers had used the Dallas-Fort Worth service, a 21.8 percent increase compared with April through October 2010, according to the airport. About half of the grant money has been spent.

“We’re hoping to end the year strong and hope to be in a position in a year or so … to seek a third flight,” said Hanna.
He said air-service money has helped make up the difference between revenue targets set by American Eagle and actual revenue. The airline has not released specific revenue figures, but Hanna said flights at 73 percent of capacity are consistent with other American Eagle routes.
United Express, which has four daily flights to O’Hare, remains the dominant carrier at the Springfield airport.

However, American Eagle numbers have grown by double digits every month except August since the service to Dallas started.
Industry analyst Seth Caplan of Airline Weekly said it is likely American will put more emphasis on its Dallas-Forth Worth hub as it works its way through bankruptcy reorganization, possibly at the expense of flights at O’Hare.
While that could work to the advantage of airports, like Springfield, that serve the Dallas market, Caplan said competition among airports will be tough in coming months.

“They are going to restructure the network, and it will get smaller,” said Caplan, who is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
He also expects airlines generally to cut back on regional jets used between markets such as Springfield and major hubs.
“It’s a cost issue in an expensive fuel environment,” said Caplan. “The cost of carrying one passenger is higher for smaller jets.”

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