Duluth Airport: Pilot shortage impacting flights to Chicago

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The Duluth International Airport says a pilot shortage is impacting the number of flights to Chicago.

In an update released Tuesday, the airport said United Airlines has fluctuated its daily flights from three to one this year and will offer one daily flight to Chicago in November. United is expected to go back up to two daily flights in December.

"The reason for the change isn’t due to passenger demand, it is due to a pilot shortage," an airport news release said.

The news release said there are estimates that up to 10% of pilots nationwide took early retirement during the COVID-related shutdowns in 2020. United has eliminated service at 13 airports, including Rochester, Minn., and Wausau, Wis.

Meanwhile, Delta has continued to offer four to five daily flights to Minneapolis for the entire year.

Despite fewer flights, Duluth International has seen a comeback in passenger numbers this year, reaching 69% of the 2019 level, which was the highest in a decade.

Beginning in December, Sun Country Airlines will offer twice-weekly direct flights to Phoenix and Fort Meyers, Florida. Duluth International also recently secured a grant to begin direct service to Denver, but details of the new service have not been announced.