Effective Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, travelers will no longer be able to fly from South Bend to Detroit.
For the foreseeable future, Delta Air Lines will no longer offer this flight, which South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jeff Rea said has long been one of the South Bend International Airport’s most regular and most popular.
Rea said he was disappointed when, about a week ago, he first heard the news that Delta had canceled service from South Bend to Detroit.
“It was disappointing to hear this, but on some levels, it was not completely surprising, given the labor shortage and what we’re seeing happening nationally with travel,” Rea said.
The airport’s CEO and executive director, Mike Daigle, said he also was disappointed to see Delta cancel the service.
“The demand we have from the traveling public to Detroit and beyond, primarily to the northeast and internationally, has always been very, very good,” he said. “The flight … that will go away in November flies very, very full, and so it’s been a great destination for us.”
Echoing Rea, Daigle said the primary reason for the discontinuation of service to Detroit is a nationwide shortage of crew members ― including pilots, flight attendants and ground crew ― that he said has affected all airlines. He said the pilot shortage is the number one challenge facing airlines across the country.
Travel woes:How the South Bend airport is dealing with a crew shortage and how it’s affecting flights
Airlines, not airports, are in charge of hiring pilots and crew members. “Because of how our industry works, where airports and airlines are very separate entities, there’s nothing directly that we can do, but there are indirect things that we can do,” Daigle said. “Those are continuing to have discussions with our airline partners about where they are, what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how they’re making decisions and, of course, where they’re going.”
Daigle said he believes flights from South Bend to Detroit will return once the crew member shortage is remedied.
“We would like for (the flight) to return as soon as possible,” he said.
How else can travelers reach the East Coast from South Bend?
Rea said he often took advantage of service from South Bend to Detroit because it provided a “great gateway to other communities,” primarily cities in the eastern part of the United States.
“In my mind, the eastern connection will probably be impacted the most,” he said. “I’ve always felt like Detroit was a good gateway if you were going to D.C. or Boston or New York.”
New security tools:Futuristic 3-D scanners could make for speedier lines at South Bend airport
He said, though now travelers who want to go east will likely have to fly from South Bend to Chicago before their connecting flight, this will be more of an adjustment rather than an overall negative impact on business travel and tourism in South Bend.
“Given that we still have (service) to Charlotte, Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Chicago, those five still provide some great connections,” he said. “People will just have to adjust their travel plans a little bit.”
Daigle added that travelers can still connect to Delta through the airport’s service to Atlanta or Minneapolis. He expects many people to reach connecting flights east by first flying from South Bend to Atlanta.
According to Delta’s website, a flight scheduled for Oct. 18 from South Bend to Detroit takes 79 minutes, from 8 to 9:19 a.m., whereas an Oct. 18 flight from South Bend to Atlanta takes 118 minutes, from 6:15 to 8:13 a.m.
How will this affect ticket prices and flight availability?
Without service to Detroit, the challenge for the South Bend International Airport will be a reduction in the number of seats available each day, Daigle said.
“That makes it a little more difficult sometimes to find an airline seat and a ticket to where you want to go,” he continued.
Because ticket prices are set by airlines and not the airport, Daigle said, he doesn’t think having fewer available seats will raise airline ticket prices for flights leaving South Bend.
“But there are going to be fewer seats … in our market,” he said. “So the seats that are available will sell faster.”
Email Tribune staff writer Claire Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org.