LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - We all know the airline industry has been hit hard during the pandemic, but now it's hitting close to home.
American Airlines has decided to pause flights at fifteen small airports and Lake Charles Regional Airport (LCH) is one of them.
Starting Oct 7, American Airlines will not operate at LCH. Flights are said to resume Nov 3.
It's being called a "pause" in operations and likely not permanent, but Airport Director Heath Allen says if the airlines do not get the federal aid they are hoping for, it may become permanent.
“The hope is, it seems right now, if they don’t get another round of the federal relief support this could very well become permanent. Obviously, that is not our hope,” he states. “We are going to do everything in our power, to prevent that and make sure it’s a temporary pause, but obviously anytime you pause service that’s not a good thing.”
Allen says he does not have the benefit of an explanation from American, though he says some national media reports there's a lack of demand.
"That lack of demand had not returned from these markets and was not expected to return. Our numbers don't seem to suggest that. We ran 80% load factor in June, 70% in July and we had returned to what we call our pre-COVID schedule in July and had more passengers in July than the entire year."
He says the pause will likely create a self-fulfilling prophesy as people hear American is leaving and not to book.
Allen also says commercial aviation is critical to our economy.
“The state of Louisiana recently pegged our economic output at $300 million and I can assure you a significant portion of that is due to the commercial service that flies out of here. So, it’s certainly worrisome.”
For some small airports American was their only carrier, so he says it is good that Lake Charles still has United Airlines.
This is not the first time American Airlines has “paused” operations at LCH. So, there is a hope they will return.