American Airlines’ suspension of air service in Dubuque could last longer than previously expected, Dubuque Regional Airport officials say.
On Friday, the airport announced American Airlines intends to halt flight service to Dubuque on Oct. 7. The airline had previously said flights would resume after Nov. 3. However, Todd Dalsing, Dubuque Regional Airport director, said now no official date has been given for when flights will return to Dubuque. Instead, the airline will review customer demand every month to determine if it is economically viable to bring flights back.
“No one really knows when flights are going to return at this point,” Dalsing said. “We’d like for them to return as soon as possible, but that is the crystal ball question at this point, to be honest.”
American Airlines had previously announced its intention to suspend service to Dubuque and 14 other small cities in August. The airline cited low demand during the coronavirus pandemic as the primary cause for the decision.
In March, the federal government approved $10.7 billion in relief funding for American Airlines, requiring that they not furlough workers and continue to serve destinations as they had before the pandemic. Both of those conditions now expire on Sept. 30, and Congress has not agreed on a bill to extend relief for the country’s airlines.
Dalsing said the decision will result in several Dubuque Regional Airport employees being furloughed, while several others will go to work at other airports.
Dalsing said he couldn’t give an estimate when American Airlines will resume service in Dubuque.
“There is no way to tell at this point,” Dalsing said. “It’s going to be looked at on a month-by-month basis.”
Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol said the decision by American Airlines will greatly negatively impact many Dubuque businesses that rely on air travel.
“There are a lot of businesses in Dubuque that rely on that airport to get out to do business,” Buol said. “It’s absolutely critical to them. Nobody likes to be forced to drive somewhere else, and now that is what they will be forced to do.”
Molly Grover, president and CEO of the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, said business travel from Dubuque has decreased during the pandemic, but some businesses still rely on it.
“Certainly it does have an impact,” Grover said. “Right now, the business community isn’t flying like they did pre-COVID, but in many cases, the flying trends out of the Dubuque Regional Airport were actually better than the national averages.”
Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, said that rural communities having access to air service is essential to their economic health.
Now, with the uncertainty of when airline service will return to Dubuque, Dickinson said he believes lawmakers should consider adopting regulations that require airlines to provide air service to rural communities.
“It’s an insult to taxpayers and to rural America,” Dickinson said. “I think we need to take a hard look at regulating the airlines to guarantee quality air service to rural cities like Dubuque.”