American Pulls Out of T.F. Green Airport

Jan. 6--American Airlines said yesterday that it will stop flying out of T.F. Green Airport in Warwick as of April 2 in order to shift service to the busier Dallas market.

Instead, American will rely on smaller jets operated by its sister carrier, American Eagle, for service from Green to Chicago, said American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner.

American's announced pullout from Green came as another carrier serving the airport, Independence Air, ceased operations yesterday.

Rising fuel prices are prompting many airlines nationally to cut costs by reducing carrier sizes and eliminating less profitable routes.

The shakeout leaves regional airports, which tend to have less traffic, particularly vulnerable.

American Airlines currently operates three flights daily from Green to Chicago's O'Hare Airport and one from Green to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Wagner said. American plans to stop flying those four, 136-seat passenger jets out of Green, and instead will add three smaller, 44- to 50-seat jets operated by American Eagle, Wagner said.

The move slashes by 72 percent the number of available seats on those flights, and eliminates Green's only nonstop service to Dallas.

"It's disappointing," airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein said. "It just impacts the ability of people to fly at different times."

During the last few months, Goldstein said, airlines have been switching to smaller, lower-cost carriers, thereby shrinking the number of available seats on flights.

"Last month and the month before, we started going down [in passengers] because we were losing capacity," Goldstein said. "We're just hopeful some of these things are temporary."

Some of the falloff could be seasonal. Typically, air travel dips during the winter months, Goldstein said, and picks up during the February and spring vacations.

Overall, passenger traffic at Green in November dipped to 444,038, compared with 467,020 in November 2004, according to the airport's most recent available monthly data.

Of the 5.3 million passengers who flew out of Green during the first 11 months of last year, slightly fewer than 296,000 flew on American Airlines flights, and just fewer than 15,000 on American Eagle, the airport data show.

In 2004, American Eagle operated three flights to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., out of Green, Goldstein said, but the carrier stopped service from the airport in early 2005.

In October, American Eagle cancelled more than 500 flights out of other airports, citing rising fuel costs.

As a result of American Airlines' pullout, people who want to fly out of Green to Dallas will have to connect through Chicago, Goldstein said, either on American Eagle or one of the other carriers.

"There are options for folks on other carriers to Chicago," Goldstein said, "whether on United or Southwest."

Southwest currently operates four flights daily into Chicago's Midway Airport, she said, and United operates five flights daily to Chicago's O'Hare.

American Airlines customers with tickets out of Green after April 2 will be allowed to switch to American Eagle flights or receive vouchers to be used on other carriers, Wagner, the American spokesman, said. If no suitable flight is available, he said, the ticket will be refunded.

American's departure from Green also will eliminate 20 jobs at the airport, Wagner said. Some of those employees may be hired by American Eagle, he said, and others may find other jobs at American Airlines.

Last month, American Airlines and American Eagle announced they would begin service at Dallas' Love Field on March 2, with a total of 16 flights a day.

Wagner said American's pullout from T.F. Green will allow it to expand the Dallas service.