Are You Paying for Rural Passenger Flights?

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Since 1978 the government has subsidized airline flights to rural airports. While that may sound reasonable on the surface the actual details are absurd.

When the airlines were deregulated in 1978 Congress created the Essential Air Service program to prevent the loss of access to air travel by people in rural areas. I am sure it sounded like a good deal at the time. However, the recent awareness of how the program has grown made it a target for cost cutting but democrats balked at losing their support base.

Subsidies have quadrupled since 2001 to more than $200 million a year. There are 153 communities in the U.S. that receive the subsidies.

For instance Jonesboro Arkansas is 79 miles from Memphis. Taxpayers provide $651 per passenger for anyone flying into Jonesboro when they could just as easily fly into Memphis and drive the 79 miles.

Kingman Arizona is 103 miles from Las Vegas. The government subsidy, paid for by taxpayers, is $801 for every person that flies into Kingman. For about $200 you could charter a limo to drive them from Vegas and save $600.

Other towns like Hagerstown MD and Lebanon NH have subsidies of $56 and $150 respectively.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group, and others sponsored a study on the cost of busses from the closest major airport instead of direct flights. They found the average cost would about $38 to $48 per person. That would be a savings of more than $89 million a year and save 5.7 million gallons of fuel. The cost to the passenger would be an average of an extra 90 minutes added to their trip.

It is programs like these that make you wonder how much money a determined congressional budget cutting group could find if they were not tied up by the obvious political motives in keeping programs of all sorts running as a way to keep getting re-elected.

Term limits are looking a lot better every time I see some outdated program being kept in operation by some outdated congressman.