Silver will discontinue service in Cleveland

Washington DC
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Silver Airways will end service to five cities that it serves from Cleveland Hopkins International airport, opting to shift its staff to operations elsewhere.

Flights to Bradford, DuBois and Franklin/Oil City in Pennsylvania, Jamestown in New York and Parkersburg in West Virginia will end by 15 May, the Florida-based regional carrier says. Service is subsidised by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) under its essential air service (EAS) programme.

Silver could end flights sooner than May if allowed by the DOT, according to a regulatory filing today.

“Multiple factors have combined to make it economically impossible for us to continue flying in these markets,” says Dave Pflieger, president and chief executive of Silver, in a statement.

The factors include new US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot training as well as rest and duty requirements, declining load factors and the decision by United Airlines to downsize its hub in Cleveland, he says.

The Silver flights are not the first casualty of the FAA regulations. Republic Airways cited them and difficulty hiring pilots when it disclosed that it will park 27 up to 50-seat aircraft in 2014 and Chicago-based United said that they accelerated its decision to downsize Cleveland.

Pilots unions argue that low wages are behind the pilot hiring issues that Republic and other regional carriers face, not the new regulations.

Silver’s flights to the five cities feed United at Cleveland. However, the regional carrier bears the financial risks for the routes because they are not covered by a capacity purchase agreement.

Speculation has focused on whether Silver would shift the flights to another United hub, for example Washington Dulles International airport, since the mainline carrier announced plans to downsize Cleveland on 1 February. The regional carrier already operates a number of EAS routes in partnership with United from Dulles.

United will shift flights to Erie, Pennsylvania, and Flint, Michigan, to its Chicago O’Hare International airport hub. Both are served only from Cleveland currently.

Silver will retire the five 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D aircraft that it bases in Cleveland. Pflieger says that this will allow it to concentrate resources on its fleet of 30-seat Saab 340B turboprops.

The airline operates 27 Saab 340Bs, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

All of Silver’s pilots, maintenance and ground crew in Cleveland will be redeployed to its operations in Florida, and at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International and Washington Dulles airports.