Release #: 22.10
March 21, 2022

ALPA Applauds DOT for Halting SkyWest Service Cuts

Denounces Carrier for Taking Handout, Leaving Small Communities Stranded

MCLEAN, Va.—In a letter sent today to Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) commended the Department of Transportation (DOT) for ensuring that SkyWest Airlines deliver on its pledge to provide air service for America’s small and rural communities, while highlighting that the airline has received nearly $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies over the past several years. Earlier this month, the nation’s largest regional airline notified DOT of its intent to discontinue Essential Air Service (EAS) to 29 cities, citing pilot staffing challenges. DOT rejected SkyWest’s plan and is requiring the airline to continue service to each city until a replacement is found.

“We urge the DOT to remain vigilant in calling out and blocking efforts by companies such as SkyWest Airlines to accept federal relief funds and then cut routes,” wrote Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president. “All Americans sacrificed during the pandemic and contributed to helping others get through the worst public health and economic crisis in a century. Those same Americans made sacrifices so that SkyWest could survive, and it is an outrageous affront to hardworking U.S. taxpayers that the company’s management is now turning their backs on those who helped them.”

During the pandemic, when U.S. airlines were on the brink of economic disaster, the federal government and American taxpayers intervened and helped airlines receive three financial lifelines through the Payroll Support Program (PSP) totaling $63 billion. SkyWest received more than $1 billion dollars in pandemic relief subsidies, the largest sum of any regional airline in the United States. The airline’s own annual reports show that, due in large part to PSP grants and loans, its pilot workforce is larger today than it was two years ago. Moreover, SkyWest Airlines applied to the DOT for additional EAS flying on February 17 and announced less than a month later that it would cut service to 29 other EAS small cities.

“This experience should serve to remind SkyWest Airlines that because of PSP support provided by Congress and U.S. taxpayers, including the critical provision in the American Rescue Plan, the company enjoys a stable economic position that has allowed it to retain and build its employee ranks,” added DePete. “The airline’s blatant attempt to cherry-pick certain EAS communities over others exposes not a pervasive staffing concern but an intentional decision to prioritize lucrative markets.”

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Federal Aviation Administration make clear that the nation also has more than enough certificated pilots to meet current airline hiring demand. In fact, there are currently about 1.5 certificated pilots relative to demand.

“We will not allow the extraordinary sacrifices that pilots and all Americans made during this public health crisis to be cavalierly disregarded by CEOs who seek to exploit this moment to line their pockets and those of their shareholders. We will remain watchful to ensure that such hypocrisy is stamped out and the spirit in which the U.S. government granted the PSP and EAS federal support is respected,” concluded DePete.

Get more information on how pilot supply is being used as a cover for bad business decisions.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 62,000 pilots at 38 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or