Thu, Jun 21, 2012
EAS Boosted To $241 Million In FY 2013 Budget
The Essential Air Service, which became a political football during last year's FAA reauthorization debate, has come out pretty well in the latest round of hearings held by the House Appropriations Committee. The panel voted to give the program an 11 percent boost ... to $241 million ... in the next budget.
Last year, the full House vote to eliminate the subsidy entirely, but some lawmakers from rural areas, including some who identify with the very-fiscally-conservative Tea Party, fought successfully to save the program. The Associated Press reports that the program is truly considered "essential" by lawmakers from large states where people sometimes have to drive hundreds of miles to be able to catch a commercial flight from a hub airport. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said "The reason we call it Essential Air Service is because it is just that. It really is an essential link for our small communities."
The subsidies sometimes exceed $1,000 per ticket, though the reforms passed with the FAA bill will change that. Routes will have to average at least 10 passengers a day to qualify for EAS payments, and Congress blocked any payments over $1,000 per ticket.
Congress has suggested that airlines use smaller airplanes to serve communities with the smallest passenger load. The Appropriations Committee suggested that single-engine airplanes might be appropriate in some instances.
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