U.S. airlines gain final approval to drop services to 75 domestic airports

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fifteen U.S. airlines were granted final government approval on Wednesday to temporarily halt service to 75 domestic airports as travel demand has been crushed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Transportation Department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier. Despite some objections to a tentative list made public on May 22, the government did not make any changes.

The U.S. airline industry has been awarded $25 billion in government payroll assistance grants to help weather the pandemic. While carriers must maintain minimum service levels to receive the assistance, many petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand.

The department has previously allowed some airlines to halt service to some airports and rejected other requests.

Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won approval to halt flights to 11 airports. Allegiant Air was allowed to halt service to six airports, while JetBlue Airways Corp, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines gained approval to stop flights to five airports each.

U.S. air carriers have said they are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights.

Cities that Delta can halt service to include Aspen, Colorado; Bangor, Maine; Santa Barbara, California and Flint, Michigan.

United can halt service to airports including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well as Key West, Florida.

Other airlines winning approval to halt some flights include American Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Silver Airlines.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kim Coghill and Edwina Gibbs)