Small Planes to Small Cities Seeing Big Cuts
Soaring fuel prices have made small planes least profitable for airlines
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2011 10:14 AM CST
To fight high fuel prices, airlines are getting rid of their least-efficient planes, the small jets that connect America's smaller cities to the rest of the world.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

(Newser) – The big airlines may be pampering their first-class passengers more than ever, especially on international routes, but around the United States, small-plane service to small cities is increasingly getting the ax, reports the AP. Over the past two years, the big airlines have cut service entirely to 27 US cities, and more shutdowns are coming. "I don't know if they really care about (passengers) in the small markets," says one frequent flyer based in Pierre, South Dakota, where Delta is set to cancel service in mid-January.

With fuel prices quadrupling from the late 1990s to now, small plane flights have gone from being reasonably profitable to the least efficient for the airlines—a 50-seat plane can require 19 gallons of fuel to take each passenger 500 miles, whereas a 160-seater needs just 7.5 gallons per passenger for the same distance. Back in the heyday of the late 1990s, the airlines bought more than 1,900 50-seat jets, but now they are decommissioning them by the hundreds. "We all got carried away with it," says a Delta executive.