SLO County Regional Airport

I try to avoid regional carriers since I don’t like small planes, they don’t pay their employees as much, and they just aren’t comfortable. Now I can add another reason—especially over the holidays—as a new report shows that one of the biggest culprits behind holiday delays and cancellations are regional airlines serving smaller cities:

“The research found cancellation rates of flights from regional airlines are three times higher than larger airlines.

Using the last five years of air travel data provided by the United States Department of Transportation, the report found that weather was the biggest cause of cancellations. With airlines choosing to cancel regional flights first in order to impact fewer passengers, travelers living in smaller cities are more often dealing with the holiday travel headaches.”

A dozen years ago, I dealt with one of those headaches myself on Christmas Eve. I was flying LAX-PIT-ERI and there was snow in the area (not a lot) and so they canceled my PIT-ERI flight. I waited in the PIT airport for eight hours as there were rolling delays before they finally bussed passengers to ERI. A long day of travel!

I know it’s impossible for some travelers to avoid regional carriers (there aren’t always options like larger airports nearby). But for travelers that do have options—like those from Erie, PA, which has three larger airports (Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh) within 135 miles—it might be wiser to drive the 100+ miles instead of risking having your flight canceled. For a list of alternate airports, check out this webpage I made that has the actual driving distances of “alternate” airports.

On the flip side, it’s much safer to fly than drive (see this story), so keep that in mind. And if you haven’t purchased your Thanksgiving flights, use this guide to help you save money!



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25 Comments On "Avoid Regional Carriers Over the Holidays"
  1. Anonymous|

    Does the same apply to smaller airports in Southern Ontario, in your experience?

  2. Scott|

    Mr Jet-
    I’m a regional pilot and although I do agree that the mainline carriers do force delays and cancellations on regional airlines and their passengers, regional airlines do not “have different safety rules.” We operate by the same safety regulations as the mainline carriers and have FAA inspectors assigned to our airlines just like mainline airlines. I understand the main point of your article is to dissuade people to use regional airlines so they won’t be delayed in their travels, but dropping in a line about safety misinforms your readers and insults the hard working people that make sure millions of passengers get to their destination as safely and efficiently as possible.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for taking the time to write. I apologize for the misinformation and I have changed the sentence. I fly regional jets often and I will no longer be afraid. I think it was that Buffalo accident that had all the news about different safety rules that stuck in my head.

  3. Brandon|

    You’re actually incorrect that regionals have different safety standards. Almost all U.S. Regional airlines operate under the same FAA FAR’s as the U.S. legacy carriers. Usually if a flight cancels to one of these “smaller” communities it is because of issues with the airport being served and their limited capabilities and resources available, not the airline or the airlines safety standards. You are trying to sell your opinion as fact, and so I hope these actual facts give you more peace of mind next time you travel on a regional airline.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Brandon,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence.

  4. Brad|

    Different safety rules? These crews fly in more weather, challenging airports, and more legs than major carriers. They do more take offs and landings and don’t rely on automation as much as their flying skills. They operate under the same regulations and safety requirements as any other Part 121 carrier.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Brad,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence.

  5. Mike Finch|

    What safety rules are different?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Mike,

      I apologize for having misspoke and have changed the sentence.

  6. Tom M|

    Different safety rules? What are you talking about? I have flown that exact EMB-120 you have pictured. I have over 1,000 hours as Captain in that type and can say with certainty that you don’t have a clue as to what you are writing about. Readers beware.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Tom,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence.

  7. Nick|

    Please quantify how regional carriers have different safety rules. Thanks.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Nick,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence. Upon further research regional jets are safe

  8. Mike|

    True. When a major airport gets congested the shortest flights inbound are affected the most. Kind of like on-ramp controls in a big city. You can control local access onto the highways but traffic coming from farther away is already ON the highway. Except when things really get backed up, the airlines have to choose which flights to cancel. Major airlines often choose to cancel the regional partners’ flights first. Those flights tend to affect fewer passengers overall, and the major partner gets to protect its own DOT performance.

    1. Johnny Jet|


      Thanks for the example.

  9. Anonymous|

    Could you give some examples of the “different safety rules” that regional airlines have, and how they differ from those of other airlines? I’m interested in knowing about this, since I fly on regional airlines often. Thank you!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence. Upon further research regional jets are safe

  10. Jo|

    What rubbish. What are these different safety rules you mention? Please be specific. Last I knew the FAA rules were the same for a major airline as they were for a regional airline.
    Also, it is usually the major airline that controls the cancellations of these flights. Please get your facts straight!!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Jo,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence.

  11. Steve|

    I’m curious…how are the safety rules different for regional airlines?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Steve,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence. Upon further research regional jets are safe

  12. Darren Byrd|

    What are the different safety rules you mentioned that exist between regional pilot’s and mainline pilot’s?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Darren,

      I apologize. I had misinformation and have changed the sentence. Upon further research regional jets are safe

  13. mallthus|

    The biggest issue isn’t usually the regional carrier, so much as the airport being served. Large metropolitan airports have ILS (Instrument Landing System) equipment to support landing in zero visibility conditions (Cat III). Additionally, they tend to have extensive equipment and protocols to support operations in bad weather. All of this is critically important during the holiday season as, here in the northern hemisphere, the “holidays” occur in winter and early spring, when weather conditions aren’t usually ideal.

    Regional airports tend to not have these same support infrastructures. They typically have only one runway, so adverse wind patterns affect them more. They often have Cat II ILS systems (at best), so visibility minimums for operation are more restrictive. Don’t get me wrong, these airports aren’t any less safe. They know their limitations, which is why they’ll often be closed to flights while major hub airports facing the same weather conditions remain open and operating normally.

    These are certainly not universals. There are small regional airports with the highest level of ILS systems, multiple runways, and the like. It’s just that only one delay at one small airport in an aircraft’s day of rotations can set off a domino effect that snarls operations for hours or days.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks for taking the time to educate us.

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