It looks like we will get to keep our Dallas flights this fall. That is some welcome news.
Earlier this month, American Airlines announced plans to temporarily suspend Joplin flights to Dallas-Fort Worth from Oct. 7 to Nov. 3. The airline, which also announced 14 other cities that would be affected, blamed low demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
Manager of the Joplin Regional Airport Steve Stockam told us previously that the airport depends heavily on business travelers rather than leisure travelers — "We have actually hung our hat on being a strong business market,” he said — and we have been hurt because business travel is nearly nonexistent right now.
You can't really fault businesses or the airlines, which are losing billions of dollars nationwide.
And although it was touted as temporary, it was worrisome, particularly because American in April suspended indefinitely the two Chicago flights at Joplin Regional Airport. In other words, Joplin would have been without branded air service.
But now, Stockam said, our designation as an Essential Air Service city should protect us from the temporary suspension.
American does not receive an EAS subsidy for its Joplin flights, but protections from that federal program are still in place, Stockam told the Globe, which means we get to keep the flights. He also said Friday that flights are now relisted, and tickets for them are being sold on the American Airlines website after having been taken off.
We're grateful for the break.
Our Chicago numbers were strong, and the number of flights had been growing every month, having hit records in January and February — just before the pandemic reached the United States. We hope once things abate we'll be able to get those flights back.
American kept the Dallas connection for Joplin this spring, but the number of flights fluctuated, dropping from three to at one point one per day in May and June before returning to three again. Currently, there are two flights per day, and they are in larger airplanes, which means there are actually more seats available now.
We must take our victories where and when we can get them, but ultimately, the future of commercial air service for Joplin depends on our willingness to use it.
This pandemic will pass, and when it does, we encourage everyone to use Joplin airport when flying.