The Dallas-based airline told Augusta Regional Airport officials Tuesday that it intends to stop flying into Augusta at the end of January.
AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle, filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29.
As part of the reorganization, the regional carrier is disposing of more than a dozen turbo prop aircraft, meaning the puddle jump cities that were served by the small planes will need to be serviced by jets in the fleet.
“They are going to backfill those markets with regional jets, which is the mainstay of American Eagle’s fleet. That lead to some dominoes that fell in certain Eagle markets, including Augusta,” said Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Eagle.
The airline also plans to cancel flights between Dallas and Fayetteville, N.C.; Chicago to Tri-Cities, Tenn., and Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and Los Angeles to Boise.
Eagle has been flying into Augusta twice a day since the summer of 2010. The flights will end Jan. 31.
“Anytime you lose an airline, it is disappointing, especially after their load factors were really strong on start-up. It is dissapointing when there is a good response from the community, but I understand where you’re going through bankruptcy and you’re trying to protect your international company that you have to give it some hard looks,” said Diane Johnston, marketing manager for Augusta Regional.
So far this year, there have been 45,153 total passengers on Eagle flights to and from Augusta. That comes out to a 76.4 percent average load factor, Johnston said.
“The loads at certain times were very, very good. Other times of the year, they were less so,” Smith said. The bookings for January looked “light,” he said.
But there were other factors in determining that Augusta service be shut down, Smith said, citing the financial performance of the market was below the systemwide average.
“It just didn’t build, quite frankly, the way that we hoped it would,” Smith said.
According to a memo to Eagle employees and executives, the flight changes were submitted Tuesday and should be active in the worldwide booking system by the weekend.
Travelers with tickets after Jan. 31 will either get a refund or be accomodated on another airline, Smith said.
Johnston said she hopes Eagle will look at Augusta again when it emerges from bankruptcy.
Smith said he cannot guarantee that the flights will resume after the bankruptcy prcoess. “You never say never either way. This is a long process and we’re less than a month into it.”
The six staffers that were running the ticket counter and gate in Augusta were employees of the airport. Johnston said airport officials have not have a chance to determine what their fate will be at the end of January.
Smith said the spinoff of Eagle as its own company has been put on hold too because of the bankruptcy.