Air America: Federal Government Spending $200 Million in Subsidies For “Essential Air Service”

While Congress is rolling back on scientific and environmental programs, it is continuing to spend $200 million in subsidies to pay for people to fly in nearly empty planes from remote airfields under the Essential Air Service program. Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are planning to kill the 200-year-old page system to save $5 million, but they supported this continuing program costing almost a quarter of a billion dollars. In some cases, a coach ticket cost the taxpayers over $4000 in subsidies.

Take flights out of Ely, Nevada. The Great Lakes Airlines flight to Las Vegas on this occasion carried just one passenger. In total, only 227 passengers flew out of Ely in the entire year of 2010 — paying 70-90 dollars. The taxpayers however paid $4,107 per ticket.

In Jackson, Tenn., the subsidy is less: $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of the airport last year. Yet, the subsidy makes it worth to fly empty planes. Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation supports the current funding.

Faye Malarkey Black, a vice president for the Regional Airline Association, is quoted as saying “They call it essential for a reason . . . If you take away air service, who wants to live in those communities?” Well, isn’t that the point. When you move to a town, you have to consider a variety of factors, including transportation. In that way, people tend to congregate in areas with reduced travel costs or factor in the higher travel costs into their budgets. The question is why the government should subsidize folks living in remote areas at a higher energy and transportation costs. This is similar to the federal subsidies or protections offered to folks living on flood plains who are repeatedly washed out in hurricanes.

What do you think?

Source: Mail

31 thoughts on “Air America: Federal Government Spending $200 Million in Subsidies For “Essential Air Service””

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  2. “The real answer is improved train service.”


    I completely agree. Train service is more economical and more efficient The technology available today makes it the best way to go. For smaller towns like those mentioned here, monorails are cheap and fast and a better way to travel.

  3. The real answer is improved train service. I have taken the train repeatedly across the American West. Even the runt service that remains, services small towns scatter strategically across the flyover states.

    I have seen teenagers, visiting family, get on in Reno, NV and get off a few hours later at Winnemucca. My experience has also been that the trains are crowded and well used. More than a few times I have been on sold-out trains. Clearly Amtrak could put the money to better use providing a much better service to more Americans.

    Plus the fare is reasonable and there is no asinine security.

  4. “I come down on the side of continuing or even expanding the subsidies. Not everything should be viewed through the lens of whether it makes or loses money.”


    I agree with you. This program is only used to illustrate that in the draconian cutting of social programs, subsidies like these remain untouched. It only illustrates that the attacks on social programs are the workings of an ideology that disdains people in need.

  5. I come down on the side of continuing or even expanding the subsidies. Not everything should be viewed through the lens of whether it makes or loses money.

    Does the government make money on Yosemite or Yellowstone? Especially compared to what would be earned by selling them off to developers?

    Have the paved roads to rural communities paid for themselves, for that matter?

    There is a slippery slope here, with the end point being a completely a la carte society, where the poor will not have access to anything.

  6. Mike Spindell said: “You could spend far less subsiding bus services, which would be more economical.”

    I agree, and the busses would only go to a major hub. Somebody from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, going to San Francisco, would only need a bus ride to Minneapolis. A plane could get there faster, but the passenger wouldn’t after driving to the airport, arriving an hour early to have his shoes scanned and his package examined, flying to Minneapolis, and walking the length of the airport to find a cab.

    Joke: A couple from Minnesota get stopped in a Texas airport by security. When police arrive, a security guard says, “These people were talking about ‘our friend Osama bin Laden’.” The flustered Minnesota husband exclaims, “I was just tellin’ my wife here that our friend Ole been loggin’.

  7. Mr. Turley said: “The question is why the government should subsidize folks living in remote areas at a higher energy and transportation costs.”

    Maybe most live in Montana and are retired Judges, retired Senators, retired Congressmen, retired Cabinet members, or other retired government managers.

    This problem – on an admittedly smaller scale – exists with city bus lines and subways. A city bus might charge $1 for each of 4 passengers on one loop. You know that bus didn’t make that trip for $4. People who don’t take the bus argue to drop the subsidy, but the old people and college students who take the bus couldn’t afford its true cost. Why should we care? Well, those people go to college, go to work (where they pay taxes), go to the mall (where they support merchants and pay taxes), and go to medical and social service sites).

    Minnesota joke:

    (Q): Does this bus go to Duluth?

    (A): No, it goes “beep beep.”

    Chicago joke:

    (Q): Does da bus go to duh Loop?

    (A): No, it goes “beep beep.”

    Indiana joke:

    (Q): Does this bus stop at any restaurants that serve an Indiana breakfast?

    (A): Yes, we go past Hammond Eggs.

  8. without the Essential Air Service Program many of the “flyover states” really would be flown over.

  9. Before I go and commit the Fallacy of Chesterton’s Fence, I’ll say the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

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