Cities in Midwest, South hit hardest by flight cuts: What executives need to know

Traveling cross-country is all in a day's work for those at the executive level. Without giving it much thought, leaders could book flights, attend meetings or conferences in other states and return home, often without being late for dinner — or at least, they used to.

Following the consolidation of eight of the biggest airlines into four giants, flight schedules have shrunk, according to The Wall Street Journal. Consolidation led to the shutdown of some smaller connecting hubs, condensed service in many small towns and even dropped some routes entirely. For example, there is no longer a nonstop flight between New York-LaGuardia and Baltimore, according to WSJ.

Memphis, Tenn., was hit hard by flight reductions. FedEx is based in Memphis and the city sees many medical travelers for St. Jude's Children's Research. Now, many travelers must make a connection at another airport to get to and fro.

masFlight, a flight tracking and data firm, compared the number of flights and seats available for the week of July 15 in 2015 and in previous years. Some cities saw substantial increases in service:

  • St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla. — 94 percent increase in weekly departures for the third week of July between 2011 and 2015
  • Orlando, Fla. — 71 percent increase
  • Dallas — 38 percent increase
  • Kona — 31 percent increase 
  • Maui — 30 percent increase
  • Seattle — 25 percent increase

Yet others saw significant drops:

  • Memphis, Tenn. — 66 percent drop in weekly departures for the third week of July between 2011 and 2015
  • Newport News, Va. — 51 percent drop
  • Milwaukee — 45 percent drop
  • Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pa. — 44 percent drop
  • Key West, Fla. — 43 percent drop
  • Colorado Springs, Colo. — 42 percent drop
  • Harrisburg, Pa. — 40 percent drop

Even some notable airports saw reductions in weekly departures, such as Atlanta (-5 percent), Phoenix (-5 percent), Chicago (-3 percent) and Boston (-3 percent). 

Airlines have also begun shutting down hubs — smaller airports that provide connections to other locations. With fewer hubs and opportunities for connections, there are also fewer low-fare tickets, according to the report.

The Justice Department is looking into whether airlines — including American Airlines, Delta, United and Southwest — colluded to reduce flights schedules at the same time so they could increase ticket prices. Each of the major airlines maintains they have done nothing illegal, according to the report. They say reducing capacity was a necessary step to become stable and profitable, something the industry has struggled with since it was deregulated in 1978, according to the report.

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