JetBlue wants to suspend service at 16 major airports; Delta wants to halt service to 9 cities

Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY
·5 min read

Airlines grappling with a dearth of passengers continue to ask the government to let them temporarily cut more routes, with Delta and JetBlue both submitting new requests on Tuesday.

Delta Air Lines petitioned the Department of Transportation for permission to suspend flights out of nine airports with decreased demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. The same day, JetBlue sought its blessing to suspend service to 16 major hubs that are dominated by larger carriers.

As a condition of taking some of the $50 billion loans or grants available to airlines under the CARES Act, carriers are required to provide minimum service levels through Sept. 30, though that period could be extended.

That entails keeping flights to cities they have served in the past, even though the planes are flying with few passengers. That is, unless the DOT grants them an exception.

The DOT says that airlines receiving federal assistance that had offered a flight or more a day at least five days a week to a destination must be required to now provide at least one flight a day, five days per week. For service to airports that had been less than five days a week, the carrier would only need to fly there one day a week.

Airlines can consolidate service from multiple hubs to one hub as long as they offer the minimum frequency, and airlines that serve multiple airports in a metro area or region will be able to consolidate their flights into one airport to meet the requirements.


Delta wants to suspend flights out of the following cities, each of which is within an hour's drive of another airport where the airline offers service:

  1. Melbourne, Florida

  2. Brunswick, Georgia

  3. Pocatello, Idaho

  4. Peoria, Illinois

  5. Worcester, Massachusetts

  6. Flint, Michigan

  7. Kalamazoo, Michigan

  8. Lansing, Michigan

  9. Hilton Head, South Carolina

The DOT has not ruled on Delta's request yet; the agency has been taking an average of one to two weeks to respond to these filings.


JetBlue's new request seeks an exemption for more than a dozen "large hub" airports across the country that are dominated by bigger carriers. The DOT has not yet responded to its filing, which covers:

  1. Atlanta: Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport

  2. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

  3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport

  4. Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport

  5. Denver International Airport

  6. Detroit Metro Airport

  7. Houston: George Bush Intercontinental Airport

  8. Las Vegas: George Bush Intercontinental Airport

  9. Minneapolis - St. Paul International Airport

  10. Nashville International Airport

  11. Philadelphia International Airport

  12. Phoenix Sky Harbor IAirport

  13. Portland (Oregon) International Airport

  14. San Diego International Airport

  15. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

  16. Tampa International Airport

Airlines respond to COVID-19: JetBlue suspends flights at eight airports

On April 8, the New York-based airline requested a seasonal exemption for Palm Springs, California, and a temporary suspension of services to 11 other cities:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  2. Bozeman, Montana

  3. Dallas Fort Worth International

  4. Houston, Texas

  5. Minneapolis−Saint Paul

  6. Worcester, Massachusetts

  7. Portland, Oregon

  8. Reno, Nevada

  9. Sacramento, California

  10. Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

  11. Mercedita, Puerto Rico

Outcome: In its April 16 response, the DOT denied exemptions for all but the two Puerto Rican airports. it allowed those two because the Federal Aviation Administration had honored the U.S. territory's request for flight restrictions to the island.

Airlines respond to COVID-19: JetBlue suspends flights at eight airports


On April 8, Florida-based budget carrier Spirit asked for the DOT's blessing to halt flights to 26 cities, reasoning that continuing to fly empty planes goes "against the public interest as it wastes scarce financial resources while adding virtually nothing.” It petitioned to suspend service to these cities:

  1. Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

  2. Asheville, North Carolina

  3. Austin, Texas

  4. Charleston/Dunbar, West Virginia

  5. Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands

  6. Charlotte, North Carolina

  7. Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands

  8. Cleveland, Ohio

  9. Columbus, Ohio

  10. Greensboro/High Point, North Carolina

  11. Hartford, Connecticut

  12. Indianapolis, Indiana

  13. Jacksonville, Florida

  14. Kansas City, Missouri

  15. Latrobe, Pennsylvania

  16. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

  17. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

  18. New York City

  19. Niagara Falls, New York

  20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  21. Plattsburgh, New York

  22. Portland, Oregon

  23. Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

  24. Richmond, Virginia

  25. Sacramento, California

  26. San Francisco, California

Outcome: In its April 16 response, the DOT agreed to let Spirit suspend service to Puerto Rico due to the current flight restrictions in place there and deferred action on the two airports in the Virgin Islands. It denied the rest.

On Monday, Spirit submitted a second request for exemptions in Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Phoenix, arguing that the grounds used to justify an exemption for Cape Air, a small carrier based in Hyannis, Massachusetts, from flying to an airport serviced by much larger airlines should apply to them as well. The DOT has not responded yet.

Allegiant Air

On April 13, Nevada-based Allegiant asked the DOT to allow it to reduce service in the following 19 cities to one flight per week:

  1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  2. Bellingham, Washington

  3. El Paso, Texas

  4. McAllen-Mission, Texas

  5. Ogden, Utah

  6. Palm Springs, California

  7. Clarksburg, West Virginia

  8. Dayton, Ohio

  9. Grand Forks, North Dakota

  10. Little Rock, Arkansas

  11. Moline-Quad Cities, Illinois

  12. Ogdensburg, New York

  13. Owensboro, Kentucky

  14. Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

  15. Rochester, New York

  16. St. Cloud, Minnesota

  17. San Antonio, Texas

  18. Springfield, Illinois

  19. Tucson, Arizona

Allegiant also requested that it be able to suspend service to San Juan Puerto Rico and asked for a seasonal exemption for Montrose, Colorado.

Outcome: This one was a mixed bag. In its response, issued Tuesday, the DOT granted temporary exceptions for the following cities:

April 28-June 30: Bellingham, Washington; McAllen-Mission, Texas

April 28-Sept. 30: Dayton, Ohio; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Moline-Quad Cities, Illinois; Ogdensburg, New York; Tucson, Arizona

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines had more success with its requests: On April 17, the DOT ruled it can suspend service to following cities:

  1. New York

  2. Boston

  3. Las Vegas

  4. Phoenix

  5. Seattle

  6. Sacramento, California

  7. San Diego

  8. Portland, Oregon.

It accepted the airline's argument that since Hawaii Gov. David Ige has imposed a 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving from the mainland, few passengers will be willing to take flights.

DOT grants exemptions to Hawaiian Airlines: Options for flying to Hawaii narrow as coronavirus quarantine rule takes hold

Contributing: Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY; Rick Neale, Florida Today

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: JetBlue wants to suspend service at 16 major airports