American Airlines Becomes Only Carrier To Serve All 50 States

American Airlines has announced service to New Castle airport in Wilmington, Delaware. That will give them operations in all 50 states. This new service will not be on an airplane. Instead it will be with a Landline bus to Philadelphia, where passengers can connect to the airline’s hub.

Credit: American Airlines

Buses in lieu of planes for short distance connections to small markets became popular as a result of the pilot shortage that hit regional airlines especially hard. Major carriers had to cut regional jet operations, and this helped to keep some stations connected. In certain cities, passengers can even clear security at the smaller airport and be delivered airside at their destination. That does not appear to be in place for New Castle.

Wilmington, Delaware currently sees commercial airline service only from Avelo Airlines, mostly to Florida. Frontier suspended operations there in 2015, and was going to restart in 202 but that was delayed due to the pandemic. They only served the city from February 2021 through June 2022.

The last U.S. airline to claim service to all 50 states was Delta. They operated regional jet service June 29, 2006 and ended it September 6, 2007.

United Airlines launched Wilmington, Delaware service in October 1984. Back then there were 2 million members of Mileage Plus (and the program name had a space between the two words then). They ran a promotion called “50 States in 50 Days” offering unlimited first class domestic travel for a year for those who completed the challenge.

Seventy eight people did it, including golfing great Craig Stadler who had won the Masters Tournament two years earlier. The group consisted of 69 men and 9 women, including one bright enough to buy a ‘Visit USA Pass’ for $860 in Hong Kong allowing unlimited domestic travel on United. Another sent postcards to United from every state as extra proof they had been there.

Every day mileage runners did straight turns off of United’s Boeing 727 flying Denver – Casper, Wyoming. United ended its service to Wilmington, Delaware in 1991.

Shuttle America served New Castle airport for about a year and a half between 1998 and 2000. SkyBus briefly served the airport in 2008. But American Airlines is the first to treat New Castle as a bus depot, which sounds about right to be honest.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. United was the first, back in 1984. They even became a Jeopardy question. Unfortunately, low performing routes were eliminated later on.

    Fun fact: This was before RJs and no busses were used.

  2. Gary!!!! Completely off topic but this is an EMERGENCY.
    I went to book my usual business saver J class ticket on United App (FRA-BKK) and the lowest shown is 145,000 miles.
    Two months ago it was 85k miles. Is this a cross the board? Is UA turning into DL??

  3. This is such a silly metric nowadays and will likely not last when AA makes cuts to routes that don’t perform.

  4. I guess it aligns with AA’s vision of mainly being a domestic airline. At least now they have something to brag about to their peers as the only airline to serve 50 states.

  5. Tweet says “tarmac to tarmac”, wouldn’t that mean you ARE clearing security at ILG?

    Wonder if/when they’ll start doing bus connections for TTN. Could potentially poach some pax away from Frontier, who’s struggling there after having one of the more “successful” runs the airport has seen

  6. For a regular, non-exciting trip, choose AA. For a premium and thoughtful experience in the sky, choose Delta.

  7. Does American still have buses from Atlantic City and Allentown PA to PHL? Any other cities where AA also use buses?

  8. Yet doesn’t even serve the capital of Canada, YOW. Oneworld doesn’t even serve the capital of Canada either.

    Wishing AA would return pre pandemic service

  9. I also would love to do the 50 in 50 states challenge! Hope one of these airlines brings it back.

  10. I came here to say the exact same thing as @Linda – with an addition, United made ever rez agent say in their greeting… “United Airlines is the 1st airline to fly to all 50 states”

    ~I was there!

    Hazzah for AA finally catching up to UA after 40 years!

    Linda also makes a great point, this was all on mainline aircraft too! AA can’t claim that.

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