VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Airports across the country are experiencing an air service crisis. Data shows Dayton International Airport has lost more than 40% of its services since 2019.

Passengers Wednesday said they chose to fly out of Dayton International Airport because of the convenience.

“Dayton International Airport is so user-friendly,” Tracy Gallagher from Richmond said. “It is so easy to navigate.”

Regional Airline Association (RAA) CEO Faye Malarkey Black said because of a pilot shortage, flights in and out of medium-sized airports are becoming less and less convenient in other ways.

“They’re losing destination options, they’re losing the frequency of the flight,” Black said. “A flight that used to take on it was perfectly timed with all the banks at multiple hubs is now timed less well, so that adds time.”

The RAA represents some of the airlines that serve Dayton International Airport.

Across the country, the pilot shortage has led to diminished or lost air service at 76% of U.S. airports between 2019 and 2022, according to the RAA. Black said Dayton International Airport lost around 45% of its flights in that period.

“With air service, what we’re seeing is that hundreds of little switches are going off across the country,” Black said. “If they’re not turning the lights out, then they’re dimming the lights substantially on a lot of air service and that is carrying enormous economic harm.”

Last month, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and City of Dayton created the Rally for Air Service coalition to help find a solution.

Chamber President and CEO Chris Kershner said the demand for the Dayton International Airport is there, especially for the business community.

“Dayton International Airport is an economic driver,” Kershner said. “Companies and businesses locate here so that they can have access to the people that they do business with.”

The coalition is lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to change requirements for pilots. Some of the changes they’re lobbying for include allowing flight simulators to count toward in-flight hours, allowing foreign pilots to transfer their training to the U.S., and changing the current pilot retirement age.

“What should be paramount in determining a pilot’s ability to fly is safety,” Kershner said. “This performance is their ability to fly the plane just an arbitrary age. If you’re 65 years old and one day, that doesn’t make you a bad pilot.”

Black said another barrier for pilots is the cost of the training. The RAA offers scholarships and is advocating to make training more accessible.

If changes aren’t made, Black said smaller airports are at risk.

“The scary thing is that we really could be looking at a future, a near future, where air services reserved for the urban centers and that doesn’t benefit anybody,” Black said.

For Dayton International Airport travelers, it’s a service they don’t want to lose.

“We chose to come to this airport even though we live in Richmond, Indiana, we usually go to Indianapolis,” traveler Cathy Hays said. “This is closer and so much easier to navigate.”