April 2, 2003--As American troops battle in Iraq, US airlines are slashing schedules, spurred on by a public that has suddenly remembered the joys of sitting by the hearth with a home-cooked meal and CNN.
We've seen this reticence and panic before. Similar schedule reductions followed the 9/11 attacks, as travelers stayed away from flying and sent the entire travel industry into a miserable recession.
This time, though, the cuts are less brutal than they were in 2001. Domestic route cuts are generally shrinking the number of flights per day to a city rather than eliminating service entirely. But international schedules are taking a real blow. The airlines say they're calling people who have booked on cancelled flights and offering them new travel options, but if you're flying abroad in April, now's a good time to go ahead and reconfirm your flight with your airline.
Not all the major airlines are cutting service: America West, Alaska and Southwest have announced no cancellations so far. Notably, those carriers primarily run domestic flights, and unlike United, they're not bankrupt. (US Airways announced on Monday that plans have been finalized and approved for its fast track emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.)
Airlines are being cautious here--most of the cuts, for now, only apply to the month of April. "Summer schedules have yet to be finalized," says Northwest Airlines spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch. But rest assured that if the war drags on and travelers don't get on planes, the flights won't come back either.
Here are the highlights of recent cancellations:
American isn't cutting domestic routes, but it's reducing frequency on some international routes. These include Boston, Chicago and St. Louis to London; Dallas/Fort Worth to Paris; and Miami to Belize, Guatemala City and Panama City. No city will lose service altogether, the airline notes.
Continental is reducing flights between Newark, London and Paris and from Houston to London from twice a day to once daily; the Newark-Tokyo route has gone from daily to four times weekly.
Delta spokespeople aren't giving details, but they said they're shutting down transatlantic service to "some cities" for the month of April as of April 6. Domestically, the airline has reduced the frequency of flights to some cities, but won't cut out any destinations entirely.
Northwest has reduced the frequency of many domestic routes. They've entirely cut service from Detroit to San Jose, CA. Daily flights from Tokyo to Singapore, Tokyo to San Franscico and Detroit to Osaka have gone to six times weekly. Twice-daily flights from Detroit and Honolulu to Tokyo are now once daily. Flights from New York to Amsterdam, codeshared with KLM, go from 11 to 7 per week.
United eliminated 104 domestic flights on April 1. They didn't tell us exactly which flights were being cut, but a United spokesman told us no city would lose service entirely. On April 6, United will reduce the frequency of service to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Tokyo, Paris, Taipei and Brussels--but once again, the airline will still serve all those cities with some flights.
US Airways has been by far the most forthcoming with details, offering up a complex chart of cancellations at www.usairways.com/adjusted_schedule. Highlights: flights out of Charlotte after 8 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are cancelled, as are flights departing Pittsburgh after 6 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. All flights between Pittsburgh and London-Gatwick have been axed for April, and some midweek flights on the Pittsburgh-Frankfurt and Philadelphia-Amsterdam routes are no more. US Airways Express is shutting down its operations in Kalamazoo, MI and Madison, WI on April 5, and pulling out of Baton Rouge, LA on May 4.
Many foreign airlines are also cutting schedules. British Airways, Lufthansa, Korean Air and Singapore Air are trimming some flights to the US; JAL is shrinking its Tokyo-Honolulu route from thrice daily to twice daily. And needless to say, if you're flying to the Middle East, you should be in close contact with your airline, as they'll adjust schedules depending on further war news.
Have you cancelled a flight recently due to war jitters? Tell us about it in our Community Boards by clicking here.