Planes to Nowhere

Imagine an aviation system in which planes fly
two-thirds empty, fares are as low as $46 and the government pays up to
93% of the cost of a flight….that system exists in the USA – and quietly is expanding…

That is from USA Today talking about the millions spent on the "Essential Air Service" program.  Do you think that the program protects small rural communities?  Nah, try small community airlines. 

…as Congress has escalated subsidies through the years, the program has
increasingly paid for flights between major airports and places that
are neither rural nor isolated.  [For example,] in October, the DOT agreed to one of the
program’s largest subsidies ever – $2 million a year to Atlantic
Southeast Airlines. That pays 60% of ASA’s cost to fly two round-trips
a day between Macon, Ga., and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson
International Airport, 81 miles away. The airline projects that passengers will pay an
average of $78 for a one-way ticket – and that flights, typically on
planes with fewer than 70 seats, will run 83% empty.

Need I tell you that the program was supposed to be temporary?  Here’s some more data from USA Today.

Community Destination Annual subsidy Subsidy per passenger Average pass. per flight
El Dorado, Ark. Dallas/Fort Worth $923,456 $250 3.1
Devils Lake, N.D. Minneapolis $1,329,858 $203 5.7
Worland, Wyo. Denver $797,844 $187 4.2
Bradford, Pa. Pittsburgh $1,217,414 $174 3.6
Jamestown, N.Y. Pittsburgh $1,217,414 $135 4.7
Salina, Kan. Kansas City $487,004 $131 2.1

Sources: Department of Transportation, USA TODAY analysis of DOT and airline data


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