Friday, February 03, 2017

'Essential Air Service' and Its Impacts in Vermont

Rutland, Vermont --    Since taking office last month President Trump has looked to cut federal programs that he finds wasteful, one of them is believed to be the essential air service.

The Essential Air Service is a federal subsidy program to help connect smaller facilities like the Rutland Southern Vermont Airport to larger airports.

"When we deregulated the airlines rural America was left behind and the essential air service provides some subsidy to maintain access for rural parts of our country,” said Rep. Peter Welch, Vermont.

For Rutland the nearest hub is Boston, Cape Air offers three round-trip flights to Boston for about $200 daily year-round. The airline receives $1.3 million from the federal government to fly the route.

Guy Rouelle is Vermont's aeronautics administrator, he says the service is very beneficial to the state's economy.

"Our airports they provide the connection for people to come and enjoy our skiing and things of that nature but they are also used by business people,” explained Rouelle.

However, there are some concerns among some lawmakers and others in Washington. According to The Heritage Foundation, conservative think tank based in D.C. the essential air service is counterproductive and is only costing taxpayers more money. Nearly $200 million can be saved if the program were to be eliminated according to its report titled ‘A Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017’.

Rouelle said, "6,700 enplanements every year from Rutland which means people go to Rutland to fly to Boston"

Other airports in the area where you can find an essential air service include the Lebanon Municipal Airport in New Hampshire. The airline offering the service there was given a subsidy in the amount of $3,072,276.

Rouelle says the airlines generally use the subsidy for fuel costs and equipment maintenance. He says without the subsidy, they could potentially terminate the service.

"Cape Air would have to go from a subsidized to route to an unsubsidized route... So it would be a great impact to not only Rutland but the state of Vermont,” explained Rouelle.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch says cuts to the program are not a good idea. "I would be opposed to any cutbacks in that service when it will just further isolate rural America,” said Welch.

The current essential air service contract is set to expire in October but work is already underway to renew.

President Trump has not yet made any announcement regarding potential cuts to the program.

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  1. Essential Air Service = This program subsidizes airline routes that make little economic sense. One-third of Essential Air Service routes operate with at least two-thirds of the seats empty. If local governments and businesses want to improve local air service, they should fund it themselves.

  2. Before the Feds once again look to demolish a useful program such as EAS they should first examine the bottomless money pits of transit known as bussing and railroads. When it comes to transit we've got a long way to go to catch up to our allies in Europe.

  3. EAS should be discontinued. It may have been useful 25 years ago, not today. The trucking industry was derugulated and no subsidies. The taxi industry is in a downturn because of changing times, they are not subsidized. A flight from a non subsidized route using same aircraft, same distance and same flight time does cost three times as much as the Rutland route


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