KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WLNS) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on Saturday, denied an exemption request from United Airlines that would have allowed the carrier to temporarily suspend service in and out of Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport through July 6.
According to our media partners MLive, The airline — citing proximity to a nearby airport that offered the same service — had filed a request April 11 with the Department of Transportation seeking an exemption from a provision of the coronavirus relief bill (CARES Act). It stipulated the airline, as a recipient of emergency relief funding, was obligated to continue service.
Kalamazoo was one of 22 markets that United Airlines had petitioned the Department of Transportation to temporarily suspend service in.
According to a notice of action issued April 25, the FAA, a division of the department, approved United’s petition in seven markets, but Kalamazoo was among those the airline was denied any total disruption in service.
The department, according to its notice of action, stated that it was authorized to require air carriers receiving financial assistance under the CARES Act to maintain scheduled service where it was deemed necessary.
“The department believes it struck an appropriate balance between the needs of communities to retain at least minimal connections to the national air transportation system during the public health emergency, as required by the CARES Act, and the economic needs of the airline industry,” according to the FAA decision.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic bringing air travel to a near halt, the Kalamazoo airport has seen a decrease of 94% of its passengers during the month of April and each of its three carriers — United, Delta and American — are down to one outgoing flight per day, Airport Director Craig Williams told MLive last week.
United and American both offer daily service from Kalamazoo to Chicago O’Hare, whereas Delta offers service to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Prior to the pandemic, the three airlines were averaging about 10-11 combined flights out of Kalamazoo per day, Williams said.
“While we understand United’s request we also are happy that they’ll still be serving Kalamazoo,” Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport Director Craig Williams said following the decision.
“They provide an important service to the Kalamazoo community and Southwest Michigan.”
With only about five or six passengers flying to Chicago O’Hare per day out of Kalamazoo over the last month, Williams said the impact would have be negligible if the petition were to have been approved, however.
Had the exemption been granted, the airline would have rerouted all travel out of Kalamazoo to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, so it could consolidate flights out of the larger airport, according to its petition.
The airline argued that continuing service to Kalamazoo was “unreasonable and impracticable” as “more than adequate substitute service” existed within easy driving distance, just 45 miles away.
“Flying empty, or nearly empty airplanes, to points that do not offer enough business to make them rational, much less commercially viable, is a waste of precious resources,” United’s request stated.