ITHACA, N.Y.—On June 19, American Airlines announced that it would cease service to Ithaca Tompkins International Airport (ITH) along with flights to Islip, New York, and Toledo, Ohio.

The airline announced it would cease flights from ITH to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PHL), effective Sept. 6. American Airlines’ only local route is between Philadelphia and Ithaca.

In a press release June 21, Ithaca Tompkins International Airport Director Roxan Noble said American Airlines’ decision to stop flights from ITH to PHL was surprising. Noble said the national travel industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the regional pilot shortage and the rise in jet fuel prices. Noble also said that ITH has outperformed other airports with planes at over 80% capacity, which makes the airport attractive for additional services.

“Based on these significant load factors, we are working to retain American Airlines’ service to ITH and have also assembled a team of community leaders and stakeholders who are strategically reaching out to our current carriers, Delta Airlines and United, on increasing service as well as diligently working to attract additional carriers to ITH,” Noble said in the press release.

Reportedly, American Airlines blamed the pilot shortage for its decision to cut Ithaca routes. 

Tompkins County administrator Lisa Holmes said she is also disappointed in American Airlines’ decision but recognizes the opportunity to attract additional service to the community.

“Ithaca and Tompkins County harbor a strong economy which positions our airport very favorable amongst the traveling public in addition to the business community,” Holmes said in the press release.

The airport has a nearly $70 million annual positive economic impact and supports 510 jobs, making it a major economic engine for Tompkins County, according to the press release. The airport is also a major gateway for students at Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College and their families. The airport also services flights directly to Philadelphia International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.