This Strange American Airlines Route is Just 69 Miles and Doesn’t Go Near a Hub

When America West took over running US Airways they began to focus on strictly on hubs, eliminating point-to-point flights that didn’t tough a hub. That strategy has continued at American Airlines. Probably no airline focuses more narrowly on serving its hubs than American (while United, under leadership of former US Airways and American President Scott Kirby, is building up its hubs).

So one American Airlines route stands out to be as an aberration: Meridian, Mississippi to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. That’s a flight of just 69 miles, and it’s operated once daily in both directions with a Bombardier CRJ-200 50 seat regional jet. (HT: Kyle Stewart)

To get a quick understanding for why this route exists — and persists under current management — Glazer’s law helps do some of the lifting. Microeconomic puzzles largely fall into two categories: price discrimination and market manipulations (tax, subsidies, fraud).

Here, of course, the reason is subsidy: both Hattiesburg and Meridien are Essential Air Service cities, and American receives government money to fly passengers from both. No other airline serves either Hattiesburg or Meridien.

The annual subsidy (.pdf) at Hattiesburg is $3,113,072 and at Meridien $2,985,821. American’s regional operation is able to pick up Hattiesburg dollars not by connecting the city with its hubs — but by connecting it with Meridien which it connects to hubs.

So why provide subsidies to two airports that are 69 miles away from each other? Both are considered to have New Orleans as their closest hub, and both are more than 100 miles from New Orleans. Since Hattiesburg flights go through Meridien it’s not obvious that there’s a significant benefit to subsidizing the extra airport.

Hattiesburg, by the way, is equidistant to Gulfport–Biloxi International Airport and Jackson–Evers International Airport, and is connected via four-lane U.S. 49.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Most of the EAS subsidies are a pathetic waste of federal funds, just like our subsidies for sugar.

    Where is Senator Proxmire when we really need him..?

  2. What’s also bizarre – search on Momondo to see the one way flight between the two for the bargain price of $1,447!

  3. Using your rough math. $3M a year and a flight in and out daily so that’s ~$4,200/flight I would’t call that a massive windfall. Mississippi is the Somalia of the USA. Until you’ve spent time in Meridien to appreciate how poor and depressing it is, just take Essential Air for what it is, trickle down economics. I could have sworn DL flew there too but I guess not.

  4. @8bb8b8
    +3 for “Mississippi is the Somalia of the USA” and just hope no Somali was offended by that comparison….
    I just don’t understand how the people from Oxford Mississippi don’t lobby to become a Georgia or Tennessee enclave….

  5. republicans at their best on wasting tax dollars for their own benefit.

    And as always, screwing over uneducated ignorants white trash that only listen to fox/fix news because they lack the cognitive capacity to come to any conclusion of their own (but are plenty racist to connect with its propaganda machine).

  6. @Gary Are you saying that Parker is accepting government subsidies. I thought only the wicked Middle East Carriers did that. Please don’t tell me they are gambling in the Bellagio, I couldn’t take it.

  7. This subsidy is nonsense. Jackson Mississippi is close to Hattiesburg, as well as Meridian. Airfares probably are the same. And Hattiesburg is on I55 to Jackson. No infrastructure shortcomings exist.

  8. @SadStateOfOurNation –

    The law codifying these subsidies was sponsored by Rep. Jack Brooks, a Democrat, and signed by Bill Clinton, a Democrat. But please, tell me more about how only Republicans waste tax dollars. Turns out the shoe fits on both feet.

    Also, Mississippi, at about 37%, is the state with the most black people in it in the entire union. In addition to your ignorance of demographics, the irony of blaming this on “white trash,” while simultaneously and unabashedly calling them racist is somehow lost on you.

    Is it not possible for people who may disagree on many things to agree that absurdities like this have no place in our nation’s laws? Can we not take that agreement and do something positive with it, as opposed to using it as fuel for ignorant tribalism?

    Your comment is the most uninformed, divisive, primitive, and idiotic thing I’ve seen on the internet today. Congratulations, I suppose. Given that this is the state of mainstream political thought, is it any wonder that more and more people are going libertarian?

  9. 2 points from having lived in Hattiesburg for a year.. as a non american..

    calm down with the its Somalia talk, yes it is not a rich as other parts of America but even in Mississippi there are plenty of people with plenty of money and plenty of normal folks just going about their lives..

    using gulfport from Hattiesburg would be silly, if you are willing to drive to gulfport you’d just drive to MSY instead 90% of the time

  10. @doug

    If you don’t understand why Oxford, MS doesn’t lobby to become part of GA, I’d wager you haven’t looked at a map recently.

  11. A lot of the passengers to Hattiesburg and Meridian (also Columbus) are military-related. It costs the gov less to buy an expensive ticket there than to arrange transport to and from JAN , GPT, or MSY. Also the PIB-MEI flight is just a leg on PIB-MEI-DFW, or something similar. They collect, or, drop off passengers at both for flights to a hub. My daughter did this flight once. She had to go from Starkville to Hartford, I think; so the best flight was MEI-PIB-DFW, and onward. She thought the tiny hop was funny, but it filled the plane up.

  12. To paraphrase the movie Billy Madison:

    @SadStateOfOurNation, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in these comments is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  13. @leef33 — Hattiesburg is not on I-55 rather on I-59 at about the midpoint between Meridian and New Orleans. At its closest point — McComb, MS — I-55 is 75 miles away. Jackson is 90 miles away on US-49, a decent road but not quite an interstate.

    @Paul — you’re absolutely right re military. Camp Shelby is a huge training post just south of Hattiesburg. Surely it draws hundreds of military passengers each month if not more.

    And re the “Somalia of America” business I agree @Richard — my grandparents were cattle ranchers and timber farmers in southern Mississippi and after an aggregate years of time spent visiting there and many other places around our country I can say the people of Mississippi are much like many other folks across this country — very hard working lower to middle class people trying their best to get ahead and provide a better life for their families. Denigrate them if you wish but such broad stroke descriptions really don’t do justice to the many fine, decent, tolerant, and hard working people of Mississippi.

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