Amidst a year of recovering ridership, the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport was dealt a stinging blow by United Airlines, which has made the decision to “suspend services” to Killeen, as well as seven other regional airports, by Jan. 4.
The move comes just four years after Delta Airlines pulled out of Killeen.
“Due to changes in the long-term sustainability of this route, United will end service to Killeen at the start of the new year,” United Airlines representative Charles Hobart said Thursday in response to questions from the Herald. “We will work with impacted customers to help them make alternate plans.”
“I’ll share that many different factors determine a successful route and our decisions include careful evaluation of our overall network, fleet, resources at our regional partners and yields. With that in mind, we have determined that this particular route is not sustainable for the long-term,” Hobart said.
According to a news release Thursday, the airline cited pandemic-related shortages, including limited regional aircraft availability, as well as limited pilots and crews nationwide, as the reasons for the suspension.
United Airlines currently provides approximately 100 seats per day to Killeen, with three daily flights to Houston. Ticket prices were also competitive, with round trips often dropping as low as $127.
According to city officials, the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport and United Airlines have had a 20-year partnership, during which time the two have worked to develop the airport and increase passenger counts.
“This reduction is part of the evolving nature of the post-pandemic air service era — not reflective of poor performance, only the new COVID-19 macro-economics,” city officials said.
American Airlines, which offers six to eight flights per day to Dallas, will remain the single air service provider for the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
“Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport will continue to strengthen American Airline’s service, while it aggressively develops opportunities with other carriers, continues to invest in community partnerships and increases marketing efforts to promote the convenience of using air service from GRK,” officials said.
Killeen airport officials said they will continue to work with United Airlines to find a path forward in mid-2022, with a potential return of the carrier when market conditions improve, and a proposed plan for service to two hubs.
“United Airlines will always be welcome in Killeen,” the city’s Executive Director of Aviation Mike Wilson said.
United representatives left the door open for future talks, stating, “We’d like to come back at a later time to properly serve the market with the right resources.”
In September 2020, Killeen’s ridership dropped to 13,203 passengers, with its lowest point being just under 3,000 in April. This year, the airport recovered to 22,249, filling about 300 seats more than in 2019.
Bryan-College Station's airport, which is owned and operated by Texas A&M University, also will lose access to United Airlines after the first of the year, in a move that the Texas A&M Chancellor described as “devastating,” Bryant-College Station news outlet KDRH-TV reported.