Sunday, May 01, 2022

Shortage of pilots forces Cape Air to submit 90-day notice to end passenger air service to Quincy; airline can’t leave until replacement is found

QUINCY, Illinois — After agreeing to a four-year, $10.8 million contract in September to be the essential air service provider for Quincy Regional Airport, Cape Air notified the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday of its intent to end passenger air service in Quincy. 

Andrew Bonney, senior vice president of planning for Cape Air, which is based in Hyannis, Maryland, signed the 90-day notice that was submitted Tuesday to the DOT.

“Cape Air gives this notice with reluctance and regret — and principally due to a shortage of pilots,” Bonney wrote.

Members of the aeronautics committee learned of the news during its meeting Wednesday afternoon. Gabriel Hanafin, interim airport manager, told the committee Cape Air can’t leave until the DOT selects a new airline to service Quincy.

“The DOT will have to first approve their request to pull out,” Hanafin said. 

Hanafin also said the DOT will conduct the search for a new EAS provider at no cost to Quincy. He said Cape Air plans to continue service as normal, maintaining 18 flights a week to both Lambert International in St. Louis (at a one-way cost of $47 a flight) and O’Hare in Chicago (at a one-way cost of $72 a flight) until DOT selects a new airline.

Cape Air was awarded the contract on Sept. 27, beating bids from Boutique Air out of San Francisco and St. Louis-based Air Choice One.

Hanafin said he learned Tuesday that Cape Air is pulling routes from Puerto Rico and the New England area, and a route that opened in February in Burlington, Iowa, also is being pulled.

“It’s not just a Quincy thing, and it’s not just a Cape Air thing,” Hanafin said.

Asked if Quincy’s flight schedule could change after the 90-day notice expires, Hanafin said, “That would be something to contact Cape Air about.”

Stacie Schuchardt, Midwest marketing manager for Cape Air, had not returned phone and text messages asking for comment as of 4 p.m.

SkyWest announced in March its plan to end service to 29 cities because of the pilot shortage. However, the website Live and Let’s Fly reported the Department of Transportation blocked the plan, arguing the carrier must continue to serve each city until replacements are found.

Airline Weekly, an online publication about the airline business, reported in March that the pilot shortage in the U.S. will get worse before it gets better. Joseph Allman, chief financial officer for Republic Airways, the second-largest regional airline in the country, told people at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading Americas conference that he sees the shortage to be at its worst during the second and third quarters of 2023.

Mayor Mike Troup said he learned of Cape Air’s decision from one of its senior vice presidents on Monday afternoon. He said after the aeronautics committee meeting that he would like to meet with Cape Air officials to discuss what can be done.

“Can we modify the number of flights? Does it have to be a direct flight from Quincy to Chicago and Quincy to St. Louis? What would it make it easier, more palatable, more affordable for everybody?” he said. “Let’s sit down and talk.”

How the pilot shortage has affected Quincy Regional Airport first came to light during the April 13 meeting of the Quincy City Council. Whitney Mintert told aldermen that a friend had planned to fly from Quincy to Chicago on a Sunday afternoon. However, the flight never showed and Mintert’s friend never was notified of a cancellation.

Troup told aldermen at that meeting that Cape Air canceled “some 40 percent of our flights” from Quincy in February and March.

Hanafin told the aeronautics committee Wednesday that the flight completion rates in April had improved — 91 percent for St. Louis and 75 percent in Chicago. Enplanements were up more than 35 percent for the two routes last month — 285 to St. Louis and 267 to Chicago.

Troup said Cape Air has done a better job that most regional commercial airlines to attract pilots. The airline also is flying its new brand of aircraft — nine-seat Tecnam P2012 Travellers — out of Quincy, “so they’re making a commitment there,” he said.

The mayor hopes Congress could modify the number of hours needed to become a licensed commercial pilot. He also said he reached out to the office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for help.

“We can’t tolerate losing all airline service,” Troup said. “That doesn’t help Quincy, and it absolutely doesn’t help our region. It’s an issue that’s related to the pandemic, and we still have to deal with the ramifications. 

CAPE COD, Massachusetts (WBZ NewsRadio) — The nationwide pilot shortage in the United States is taking its toll on major airlines, and now regional airlines are feeling the impact.

Cape Air has announced they will be reducing the number of their flights serviced between Cape Cod and Nantucket, forcing the airline to run that route on a Monday through Thursday schedule.

"There is an industry-wide pilot shortage, and we just don't have enough pilots to fly our schedule, so we had to pull down some of flying that we had currently out for sale, and that included Hyannis to Nantucket," CEO of Cape Air Linda Markham told WBZ's Tim Dunn.

The decrease means Cape Air will offer that route with just one to three flights a day, down from its current six a day availability. Markham says there are several reasons for why there's a shortage of pilots.

"The Federal Aviation Administration mandates that pilots retire at age 65, there's fewer pilots leaving the military, and there's high cost and lengthy training. The Covid pandemic really exasperated the shortage because so many of the airlines offered early retirement and did furloughs, and those pilots are not coming back," Markham said.

The scheduling changes are expected to take effect for Cape Air around mid-June of this year, with no indication how long the abbreviated service will be in place.


  1. New batch of pilots coming from DEI initiatives will solve the problem.

    1. web search "What percentage of commercial pilots are female?
      The pilots show that there are now only 64,979 women pilots, which accounts for 9.02% of the total. The numbers become significantly less if you discount the pilots that only hold student licenses – (6.03% of non-student pilots are women). Feb 22, 2022"

    2. Women (and non-white minorities) are not in the cockpit due to no opportunities. They have access to flight school scholarships and other incentive assets that no white males have. These groups are not into aviation at the same rate because it does not interest them. They all grow up knowing what airplanes are just like white males do who make up the vast majority of all pilots between civilian and military. They just have no interest in getting into that line of work at the same rate and it is that simple. I will repeat: there is nothing discrimination oriented preventing certain demographic groups getting into flying no matter their race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion, and there are programs out there for certain demographics that give them an advantage should they choose that route.

    3. They need to go back to hiring/promoting based upon merit not race/gender.

  2. The federal government mandated 1500 hours to sit in the left seat. For no reason.

    1. So you will get into a Cessna 402 with a PIC who has how many hours? If you peruse the NTSB database you will find many reasons why 1500 hours is the minimum. There wouldn't be a "pilot shortage" if air carriers hadn't spend the last several decades paying near poverty wages and treating their employees as expendable.

    2. Before the 1500 hour rule, first officers required a minimum of 250 hours, having trained with school CFIs who often themselves are in apprentice positions, which always has been since the military pathway dried up, and always will be and the airlines and FAA know this.

    3. I don't understand what you just said....

    4. Cape Air is a SCHEDULED carrier even though Part 135. Do you know what license is required for that? The 1500 hour rule was put in place for many reasons. Captains need 1500 hours now and BEFORE the rule change.

  3. They need to go back to hiring/promoting based upon merit not race/gender.