14 News Special Report: Recent airline cuts at EVV impact regional economy, passengers

14 News Special Report: Recent airline cuts at EVV impact regional economy, passengers
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 6:58 PM CST
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - It is no question. It has been a turbulent time for the airline industry.

The Regional Airline Association says a major pilot shortage is impacting airlines. As a result, the shortage has helped drive up the cost of ticket prices and resulted in a loss of service to many airports, including the Evansville Regional Airport.

Earlier this year, Delta and American Airlines cut their flights from EVV to Detroit and Chicago, respectively. United Airlines completely left the airport. It operated flights to Chicago out of EVV.

Flights still depart on American Airlines to Charlotte and Dallas-Fort Worth. Delta also still operates its EVV to Atlanta route. Allegiant Air operates flights from EVV to two Florida airports: Orlando-Sanford Airport and seasonally to Destin.

Passenger Donna Hammon, who recently flew out of EVV headed for Phoenix says her ticket was $1,200.

“It’s really a struggle. I’m sure for a lot of people,” said Hammon.

Similarly, Passenger Ann Rowan flew out of EVV the same day, headed for Los Angeles International Airport. She told 14 News she used to pay $400 for trip earlier in the year. But this time, she said it was $1,100. But it’s not just that, Rowan said her daughter who lives in Detroit used to fly down to Evansville, but doesn’t anymore because of the recent flight cuts.

“Them taking away Detroit and Chicago has really messed things up,” said Rowan. “So now she’s like forget it, I’m not flying down.”

The loss of air service has also been brutal on our local corporations headquartered in the Evansville region. Jack Griffin, CEO of Atlas Van Lines told 14 News the cuts have not been great for his company.

“Where it hurts is your ability to physically meet with your customers,” Griffin said.

Griffin represented Atlas in an airport initiative called Fly EVV First. Its main goal is to encourage people in the Tri-State to fly out of Evansville over larger markets, with the goal to help attract new service to the airport.

Griffin said they do prefer to fly EVV first and are happy to help the airport, but said sometimes they do have to branch out to larger airports. When they fly out of Evansville, sometimes they have to connect two or three times before they get to their final destination, Griffin said.

And it’s not just that. Griffin said limited service impacts recruiting.

“We are in one of the tightest labor markets in probably 30 years,” said Griffin. “[Prospective candidates] also have to envision living in the Evansville area and the ability to travel back to see family and on business.”

Atlas is among many corporations headquartered in the Evansville Metro area feeling the downdraft.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation told 14 News they’ve heard from Berry Global and Toyota Indiana executives on this issue. But it’s not just exclusive to those companies. IEDC officials said this is a community-wide issue, impacting everything from small businesses to large corporations that do business in Evansville.

“We understand why it took place. We just want to know where we are in the pecking order. Will we get those flights back? Or, are we going to be forced to have my colleagues at Atlas drive a couple of hours over to Louisville?” said Griffin.

Part two of Grounded: Few Flights, Fewer Choices airs Thursday evening on 14 News at 6 p.m.