Senators Lean On American And Delta For Flights To Indiana. Here’s What They Don’t Understand.

The two U.S. Senators from Indiana and the Congressman from Evansville, Indiana have written to the CEOs of American Airlines and Delta to request resumption of air service from Evansville Regional Airport to Chicago O’Hare and Detroit.

United Airlines pulled out of Evansville, Indiana this year but the airport still offers service to,

  • Dallas – Fort Worth (American)
  • Charlotte (American)
  • Atlanta (Delta)
  • Orlando/Sanford and seasons Destin/Fort Walton Beach (Allegiant)

In addition Owensboro, Kentucky’s airport is 29 miles away and has service to Nashville and St. Louis on Cape Air and Orlando/Sanford on Allegiant. This is not a region desperate and lacking air service.

Senator Braun serves on the Budget and Appropriations committees. Senator Young serves on the Transportation committee. Not only are U.S. airlines among the most heavily regulated businesses in the country, their lifeblood is government subsidies. Moreover the federal government owns a stake in each airline. Formal requests like these are ignored at each airline’s peril.

However there is a shortage of pilots. Airlines weren’t recruiting new ones while carriers like American furloughed them. And the major airlines paid many to retire early.

Congress, at the behest of pilots unions and under the guise of safety after the Colgan Air accident, created significant barriers to becoming a pilot that were completely unrelated to the cause of that incident. Congress can fix this if they want air service to the smallest cities, precisely what gets cut as pilots are allocated to the most valuable trips, they should fix this.

But they won’t because ALPA has already come out to protect barriers to entry to the pilot profession, which gives them negotiating leverage and keeps their salaries up by keeping other people from becoming pilots. If Senators Braun and Young were serious about air service for rural parts of their state, they’d speak up rather than being cowed by claims revamping pilot qualification rules that no other country in the world has followed was somehow weak on safety (when it isn’t).

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Yeah, no. You’re woefully misinformed if you think the laws passed after Colgan didn’t improve safety in US commercial air travel. The proof is in the proverbial pudding. Now, we need to implement equal rules for cargo carriers as well, specifically rest requirements.

    The requirement for both pilots in an airline transport category aircraft, operating in an airline environment, to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate is more than reasonable. The ONLY reason airlines (regional airlines really) want to reduce this is money. Plain and simple. They’ve long been awful employers and it’s past time they have a reckoning and disappear forever.

  2. PHLPHLYER – the pilots had ATP cert already. The biggest FAA change was punitive to all regional carriers (a 500% increase in training required), and yet the punitive change would not have changed the outcome of Colgan 3407. It absolutely was a union barrier to entry. Unions gonna union.

  3. I think that Senators Braun and Young and Representative Bucshon understand full well what their request means, and also understand full well why the airlines did what they did. This is (in my opinion) public posturing and nothing more, something to which they can point when they are back home campaigning.

    Unions may “union”, as a previous commenter suggested – but politicians are going to “politick”, too.

  4. Why wasn’t a letter sent to WN? Why should they be exempt from congressional pressure and leave the big 3 to have to serve every little small town.
    ATL CLT and DFW are all very large hubs and have enough connections to make small cities work.
    Chicago is not even that long of a drive so there is no local market – it will all be about connections; regional jets just don’t work if the goal is simply to connect passengers at a hub.

    And the pilot shortage is as much about the known and predicted wave of mainline retirements as it does about regional jet pilot training requirements. Add on that the economics of 50 passenger regional jets have been awful for a decade and are 10X more awful with near $4/gal jet fuel and a whole lot of small cities will see a lot less air service.

  5. From what I’ve read in stories here student pilots need 1,500 hours and one way that is done is by instructing other student pilots in propeller Cessna’s?
    Is that correct? How is that relevant to flying a jet? Am I misunderstanding the solution?
    A little clarification would help.

  6. Agreed with PHLPHLYER that we need regulations to make sure pilots are rested when they report for duty. Both Colgan pilots reported unrested after commuting to EWR from SEA and PBI. Pilots need to have residence near their base and should have mandatory 24-48 hours rest at the originating domicile before reporting for duty.

  7. “However there is a shortage of pilots. Airlines weren’t recruiting new ones while carriers like American furloughed them. And the major airlines paid many to retire early.

    Congress, at the behest of pilots unions and under the guise of safety after the Colgan Air accident, created significant barriers to becoming a pilot that were completely unrelated to the cause of that incident. Congress can fix this if they want air service to the smallest cities, precisely what gets cut as pilots are allocated to the most valuable trips, they should fix this.”

    If the quote and reference cited therein is a suggestion to provide increased air transportation service to small cities by lowering the minimum hours required for an airline transport pilot rating from 1500 to 250 which is the minimum number of hours for a commercial license, it is not a good idea.

    Small town airports often have short runways, non-precision instrument approaches, challenging local terrain like hills, mountains and ravines, inadequate equipment for removing snow, ice, water and debris from runways to name a few of the challenges of small airports versus major airports. Having pilots with as little as 250 hours flying passenger planes into those small airports in all kinds of weather conditions is not doing those passengers and pilots any favors.

    Just because ALPA likes the 1500 hour standard doesn’t mean its bad. Further, ALPA’s interest is having more pilots who pay dues not fewer ones. ALPA should be against barriers to entry to the pilot profession unless they are unrelated to safety.

  8. Amazingly, there still remains a sizeable number of people who actually believe government rules and regulations exist to protect the general public. Fascinating!

  9. 3 out of the previous 5 accidents to the ATP rule had pilots who were previously “employed” by Gulfstream Airlines at the helm. Pinnacle 3701, Comair 5191, and Colgan 3407. Gulfstream was a pay to play shop that charged $25,000 for 250 (?) hours of FO time. This accelerated program gave many pilots the TT and multi time required to move to a regional airline.

    Unfortunately, what this did as an unintended consequence is it gave people who under normal circumstances wouldn’t have the stamina and ability to finish their teeth cutting period of flying clapped out twins full of checks, instructing, or any number of low time jobs and gave them a quick easy path towards employment. Think of it like if a doctor were to pay to skip their residency by paying a hospital a fee to place them.

    More “training” in simulators doesn’t help – Air Franc 447 showed us that.

    The reason there is such a shortage of pilots right now? After decades of getting crapped on left and right, combined with the astronomical costs of training, and now with automation looming in the distance, who can blame them? I wouldn’t want to do it either.

  10. Crew rest and better training like the majors give are the biggest contribution to safety. Dispatch able to keep planes away from freezing rain may have helped Colgan. But it’s an entire system. Maybe Republic, Mesa and Skywest have improved training, but I’m guessing the economics make that hard. If one watches the main YouTube channels about why planes crash (Mentour Pilot and blancolirio), one gets a feeling for what things are unsafe. But sitting in the back of the plane, one never knows how well trained the person in the front is. I agree that 1000 hours flying banners isn’t going to solve pilot training. I’d be happier seeing 500 hours in the simulator, but those hours are expensive too, and they have to test the right things.

  11. The right training and experience and rules that address the real problems, not just having a bunch of hours, will improve safety – as it has in the past.
    The reason why the primary reason for the Colgan crash – fatigued pilots from their own commute to work – wasn’t addressed is because doing so would impact too many pilots with lots of hours that commute to work from their home many states away from their base.
    US airlines have perfected crew resource management which still is not fully implemented at some of the world’s most notable names but technology in planes changes and how it acts when failures occur – such as on the Air France flight which was a mechanical failure which the pilots did not handle correctly – and training has to continue to evolve.

    The real point is why any company should provide a service to a community that does not make economic sense. EVV is not underserved or without air service. Because a senator wants a specific route doesn’t mean anything as Gary notes.

    And given the high cost of jet fuel which will persist, there will be lots of routes that don’t work and air fares will still rise. Airlines like Delta with its refinery and Southwest and Alaska with hedges will have an advantage over the rest of the industry in reducing their high jet fuel prices but no airline can be expected to solve problems which were created by forces that are far bigger than themselves.

  12. Tim Dunn speaks! Always interesting. My question. Any feasibility on making pilots and FA’s live in the city they work? Or has that cat left the bag?

  13. Jorge,
    there is nothing wrong with commuting. When some people drive 2 or more hours to their jobs, it is hard to argue that crew members can’t fly for a couple hours.
    The problem is that some crew members really do push the limits of their own bodies in order to commute. That is what happened in the Colgan crash.
    Fatigue is a valid reason for not flying and airlines generally accept when a crewmember says it as long as it isn’t abused.

    The real issue is whether the 1500 hour rule was necessary because it wasn’t a reason for the Colgan crash and if relaxing it will help the pilot shortage.

    If enough small towns see the loss of service and every one sees higher fares due to reduced capacity, maybe some people will think and question previous decisions.

  14. Tough, establish a shuttle bus service to Indianapolis like other cities have done to deal with loss of scheduled airline service. We must take Groome Inc. shuttle bus to and from Atlanta as we lost any real EAS service due to excessively high costs to the taxpayer per passenger. Yes, it might cost $100 each way for high quality bus service, but that’s the way the commercial travel industry is these days.

Comments are closed.