Nationwide pilot shortage forces airline to cut flights at Duluth International

Duluth International Airport
Duluth International Airport(KBJR)
Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 7:01 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - Duluth International Airport is feeling the effects of a national shortage in pilots.

United Airlines were forced to drop flights to and from Chicago down to just one frequency a day during the month of November.

“That’s the lowest level we’ve had in quite some time,” Tom Werner, Executive Director of the Duluth International Airport, said.

Prior to the shortage, flights to and from Chicago were averaging three frequencies per day.

Werner said the industry has been preparing for this shortage for years, as a combination of upcoming retirements, buy-outs, and lower passenger numbers during the pandemic made the problem inevitable.

“Now the demand is returning and airlines are trying to get all of their aircraft back in the air, you need to have crews in order to fly them,” said Werner.

The pandemic didn’t create the problem, according to Werner, but it certainly exaggerated it.

Werner said locally, passenger totals were down as much as 30 percent.

Now, as demand for flights is beginning to climb once again, the airlines are stuck with diminished crews.

Werner said they haven’t let the shortage affect their plans, despite a slight hit in revenue.

He’s confident the problem will fix itself within the next year or two.

“I have no doubt that that will change as the airline industry continues its rebound and its growth, and airlines continue to respond to this market by adding additional frequencies at competitive prices,” he said.

DLH still plans to move forward with providing flights to Phoenix and Fort Myers next month.

Werner says they plan to again provide two United flights per day to Chicago starting December 5.

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