Passengers check-in for their flight for American Airlines from Long...

Passengers check-in for their flight for American Airlines from Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma on Tuesday. Credit: James Carbone

American Airlines flew its last flight out of MacArthur Airport on Tuesday morning, one of  four airports the carrier dropped due to pilot shortages that have slammed the aviation sector.

Beginning Wednesday, American Airlines will also no longer provide service at airports in Dubuque, Iowa; Ithaca, New York; and Toledo, Ohio, the airline's spokesperson Brian Metham said. The pilot crunch has also led other several major carriers to cut schedules, mostly in smaller communities, according to Rally for Air Service, a coalition of groups, airports and airlines.

Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, operated the Philadelphia-bound flights at MacArthur in Ronkonkoma. Now it’s unclear whether any other carrier will step in to fill that gap. Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Breeze Airways continue to provide service to multiple destinations at the Islip airport.

Peter Russo, a former military and commercial airline pilot and former chair of the aviation department at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, noted that while convenience is a major selling point for the Islip airport, it has struggled to find its niche in the metro area’s vast transportation network.

“You’re just too close to Kennedy and LaGuardia. The attraction there is too great, and the size, they’re constrained by where they are. They have short runways, they’re in the middle of a giant residential area which holds several million people, so, they can’t just blast off and become the next Kennedy,” Russo said.

But Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said there has been a 64% increase in passengers during the first six months of the year compared with last year.

“We are always recruiting new service — however we want to be sure that any new service can be successful and sustainable,” Carpenter said in a statement.

According to the airline coalition, 72% of airports nationwide have less air service now than prior to the pandemic.

Airports have lost an average of 22.4% of their flights, a figure that some experts fear will not resolve anytime soon.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. … Airports have lost flights compared to pre-pandemic and that’s with business travelers not coming back, when business travelers come back it’s going to create additional pressure on the system,” said Drew Jacoby Lemos, senior director of government affairs at the Regional Airline Association, a group that represents 17 North American regional airlines.

Lemos said the loss of regional service hurts passengers and increases road traffic with more folks opting to drive. “You’re in for more pain and frustration, what if your flight is delayed and you miss it or it’s canceled? There are less flights now so there are less options for rescheduling because planes are full,” Lemos said.

Pilots are mandated to retire by age 65 and roughly 50% of the workforce is expected to reach retirement age within the next 15 years, Lemos said. Legislation was introduced in Congress to raise the mandatory retirement age to 67.

American Airlines flew its last flight out of MacArthur Airport on Tuesday morning, one of  four airports the carrier dropped due to pilot shortages that have slammed the aviation sector.

Beginning Wednesday, American Airlines will also no longer provide service at airports in Dubuque, Iowa; Ithaca, New York; and Toledo, Ohio, the airline's spokesperson Brian Metham said. The pilot crunch has also led other several major carriers to cut schedules, mostly in smaller communities, according to Rally for Air Service, a coalition of groups, airports and airlines.

Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, operated the Philadelphia-bound flights at MacArthur in Ronkonkoma. Now it’s unclear whether any other carrier will step in to fill that gap. Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Breeze Airways continue to provide service to multiple destinations at the Islip airport.

Peter Russo, a former military and commercial airline pilot and former chair of the aviation department at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Queens, noted that while convenience is a major selling point for the Islip airport, it has struggled to find its niche in the metro area’s vast transportation network.

“You’re just too close to Kennedy and LaGuardia. The attraction there is too great, and the size, they’re constrained by where they are. They have short runways, they’re in the middle of a giant residential area which holds several million people, so, they can’t just blast off and become the next Kennedy,” Russo said.

But Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said there has been a 64% increase in passengers during the first six months of the year compared with last year.

“We are always recruiting new service — however we want to be sure that any new service can be successful and sustainable,” Carpenter said in a statement.

According to the airline coalition, 72% of airports nationwide have less air service now than prior to the pandemic.

Airports have lost an average of 22.4% of their flights, a figure that some experts fear will not resolve anytime soon.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. … Airports have lost flights compared to pre-pandemic and that’s with business travelers not coming back, when business travelers come back it’s going to create additional pressure on the system,” said Drew Jacoby Lemos, senior director of government affairs at the Regional Airline Association, a group that represents 17 North American regional airlines.

Lemos said the loss of regional service hurts passengers and increases road traffic with more folks opting to drive. “You’re in for more pain and frustration, what if your flight is delayed and you miss it or it’s canceled? There are less flights now so there are less options for rescheduling because planes are full,” Lemos said.

Pilots are mandated to retire by age 65 and roughly 50% of the workforce is expected to reach retirement age within the next 15 years, Lemos said. Legislation was introduced in Congress to raise the mandatory retirement age to 67.

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