Program Web Address



In - Commuter Airlines: Their Changing Role – an essay by J. A. F. Nicholls, Transportation Coordinator, Department of Marketing and Environment, College of Business Administration, Florida International University, Nicholls initially observes: “The great majority of airline passenger miles flown in the United States are between large conurbations. People living in metropolitan areas may be quite unaware of commuter airlines and their role in our transportation system. These airlines are, however, communications lifelines for dwellers in small - and not so small - towns and rural areas. More germanely, commuter airlines have also developed a pivotal role vis-a-vis the major carriers in this country. The author discusses the antecedents of the commuter Airlines, their current role, and future prospects.”

Huh; conurbations? Definition: [n.] a large urban area created when neighboring towns spread into and merge with each other

In providing a brief history on the subject of commuter airlines, Nicholls states: “…there had been a sort of commuter airline as far back as 1926 when, for example, the Florida Airways Corporation provided flights between Jacksonville and Atlanta, Colonial Air Lines between New York and Boston, and Ford Air Transport from Detroit to Cleveland.”

“The passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act in 1938 was pivotal in encouraging and developing a passenger orientation by the airlines…” Nicholls informs you.

Nicholls provides for the importance of this act by saying: “The CAA was empowered to act “in the public interest and in accordance with the public convenience and necessity.” Only the CAA itself could determine what constituted the “public convenience and necessity.” Nobody, however, could provide air transportation for public purposes without a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, dispensed by the CAA.”

The author wants you to know that this all happens in the age of airline regulation; that is to say, pre de-regulation i.e. 1978. Airlines could not and did not act on their own behalf; their actions were governed by the regulating agency, that being the Civil Aeronautics Board [CAB], who administered the conditions set forth by the CAA.

“In 1944 the CAB introduced a new category of service called feeder airlines to provide local service-short-haul, low density-for smaller communities. These carriers soon became known as air taxis since they operated as common carriers, without a regular schedule,” says Nicholls in describing the evolution of the service. In 1969 the CAB officially designated these small air carriers as commuter airlines. They were, and are subject to passenger limits and freight/weight restrictions.

Nicholls continues by defining how air carriers are labeled and categorized post 1978; in the age of de-regulation.