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Airline Industry Continues to Struggle with Workforce Shortage Issues

Posted 3/15/22 (Tue)

North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 80,552 airline passenger boardings during the month of February, 2022. This is a 57% increase from the 51,240 boardings that the state experienced in February, 2021. It is also approximately 14% below February 2019’s pre-pandemic passenger counts of 93,335.

Airlines continue to identify challenges associated with their ability to increase flights and capacity across the system due to workforce shortages, fleet availability, and a lack of business and international travel demand.

SkyWest recently submitted a request to the USDOT to release them from their contractual obligations and allow the termination of their air service routes within 29 Essential Air Service (EAS) communities throughout the country. The rationale cited by SkyWest in their announcement is “due to a result of an ongoing pilot staffing imbalance across the industry”. North Dakota communities that are impacted by this announcement include the Jamestown and Devils Lake airports where SkyWest is currently under contract to provide air service through June 30th, 2023.

In response to SkyWest’s request, the USDOT issued an order that prohibits SkyWest from terminating service to each of the 29 communities until the agency finds a replacement carrier. Air carriers should file proposals with the USDOT no later than April 11th, 2022.

“We are disappointed that workforce shortage issues have placed SkyWest in a position where they have decided to request the termination of their contract obligations within two Essential Air Service communities in North Dakota and many others throughout the country.” stated Kyle Wanner, Executive Director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. “We are also appreciative of quick response by the USDOT to issue an order that prohibits SkyWest to terminate air service in the near term while quickly moving forward to request proposals from potential replacement carriers. We look forward to working with our communities, our airline partners, and our congressional delegation to identify potential solutions to these challenges.”

February 2022 Airline Boarding Press Release and Statistical Information