Did you know you’re paying for this?

The federal government is paying out $113 million a year in airline subsidies in exchange for serving small communities that (in theory) can’t support the service based on the business they provide.

    Federal taxpayers are spending up to $567 per passenger to subsidize air service to rural communities that may have as few as two or three air travelers a day.

Some more snippets from the piece:

    _ The federal cost has jumped from $22.6 million in 1996 to $113 million this year — a fivefold increase. The increase is explained in part by a growth in the number of communities served from 97 to 135 and rising expenses, such as fuel.

    _ The average per passenger subsidy paid to airlines nearly tripled to $229 per passenger for each flight in the 48 continental states from 1995 to 2002. Subsidies range from $9 per passenger for Johnstown, Pa., to $567 in Lewistown, Mont.

    _ Airlines are contracted to provide at least two departing flights from almost all EAS communities, but more than 20 airports reported an average of three passengers or fewer per flight during the year that ended June 30, 2002. Alliance, Neb., reported a daily average of 2.1 passengers, or about one passenger per flight.

Seems silly, and the Bush administration agrees — they wanted to cut the program in half (which would still be more than double the funding of 7 years ago). But naturally the airports receiving subsidies and the airlines want the payments to continue, and there isn’t alot of pressure to kill them off. So Congress has passed continued funding for the program.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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