More airlines are shifting some of their regional routes to dedicated buses 'flying' to smaller towns from major airports, a trend that may accelerate as airlines find it hard to keep their regional networks going due to a pilot shortage.
The buses, in airline livery, allow passengers to check in at regional airports and then be dropped inside security at the larger airport with bags already checked; it also works in the opposite direction. The latest routes added are United 'flights' connecting Denver to Breckenridge and Fort Collins, Colorado. American is already connecting Philadelphia to Allentown and Atlantic City.
While the concept, working with bus operator Landline, originated with Sun Country Airlines as a way to make its leisure flights out of Minneapolis more marketable to vacationers from surrounding areas, it is now gaining impetus as a way of replacing routes.
United has cut 29 cities this summer because its partner SkyWest doesn't have enough pilots, and other regional carriers face the same situation, at least in part because the quickest way for mainline airlines to fill their pilot vacancies is to hire, at mainline pay, from the regionals.