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American to cut flights from major hubs

Following its May 21 promise to trim fourth-quarter capacity, American has released details about the cities that will be affected. The airline will target its hubs, cutting 28 flights from Chicago, eight from St. Louis, 19 from Dallas/Ft. Worth, and five from New York's LaGuardia airport. American will no longer serve Oakland, California; London (Stansted); and Barranquilla, Colombia.

American Eagle, the airline's regional affiliate, will see significant reductions at those hubs as well, and will also cease service to a number of airports, including Providence, Rhode Island; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and San Luis Obispo, California.

American's choice to target its hubs is not entirely surprising, as the major airports it uses, like Chicago and Dallas, are extremely crowded and prone to delays. American seems particularly frustrated with LaGuardia, as the airline's Executive Vice President-Operations, Bob Reding, singled out the airport's punctuality problems, saying "The dependability and delay issues that exist at LaGuardia have reached a crisis point." In fact, the title of the press release points the finger squarely at LaGuardia, and even suggests American's reductions there are meant to help all passengers, not only American's.

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Far be it from me to call into question an airline's ethics, but that image of American sacrificing capacity for the good of the flying public seems like nothing more than clever PR. Still, the rationale is solid: Find airports where money is lost as airplanes idle endlessly on the tarmac.

American Eagle's cuts are more troubling, however. Time and time again it's been said that capacity reductions will hit hardest in smaller cities, and these are exactly the types of places American Eagle serves. A fair number of small towns will be losing their connection to major cities and the vast flight network beyond.

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