Essential Air Service
Essential Air Service (EAS) is a U.S. government program enacted to guarantee that small communities in the United States, which, before deregulation, were served by certificated airlines, maintained commercial service. Its aim is to maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service to these communities that otherwise would not be profitable. This came in response to the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, which gave U.S. airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The program is codified at 49 U.S.C. §§ 41731–41748.
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) subsidizes airlines to serve communities across the country that otherwise would not receive scheduled air service. As of June 1, 2015, 159 communities in the US received EAS subsidies, of which 44 were in Alaska, two were in Hawaii, and one community in Puerto Rico. The decision as to what degree of subsidized service a community requires is made based on identifying a specific hub for the community and from there determining the number of trips, seats, and type of aircraft that are necessary to serve that hub.
In fiscal year 2015, the federal budget provided $263 million in funding for the EAS program. The USDOT proposed a further 7.6 percent increase for a proposed FY2016 funding of $283 million. The budgeted funding for EAS increased from $193 million in FY2012 to $233 million in FY2013 to $268 million in FY2014, before decreasing slightly in FY2015 to $263 million. Between FY2012 and FY 2015, annual EAS expenditures rose 36%. Per passenger EAS subsidy in the 48 contiguous states plus Puerto Rico ranged from $10 to more than $977 per passenger in 2014.
These increases occurred despite numerous Congressional measures to contain program spending. The George W. Bush Administration sought to reduce the cost of the program to $50 million by stricter eligibility criteria and requiring the local governments of the areas served to contribute to the cost. The Heritage Foundation argued in 2014 that rural airports should receive no federal subsidies through the Essential Air Service program; rather, state and local governments that value the air services should support them. The Congressional Research Service has reported that since the early 2000s federal subsidies for the EAS have nearly tripled to almost $300 million per year.
- 1 Community eligibility criteria
- 2 Controversy
- 3 Report tables
- 4 Communities formerly having subsidized EAS
- 5 External links
- 6 External links: Essential Air Service Air Carriers
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Community eligibility criteria
Pursuant to the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2000, no community within the 48 contiguous states may receive a subsidy greater than $200 per passenger unless the community is more than 210 miles (340 km) from the nearest large or medium hub airport. Pursuant to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, to be eligible for the program, a community in the contiguous 48 states must either maintain an average of 10 or more enplanements per service day or be located more than 175 miles (282 km) from the nearest large or medium hub airport. The criteria for 10 or more enplanements can be waived by the Secretary of Transportation, on an annual basis, if a community can demonstrate that it is due to a temporary decline.
The Department of Transportation, pursuant to the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015, is required to negotiate a local cost share with communities located less than 40 miles (64 km) from a small hub airport.
Critics question the economic efficiency of the service. According to a 2006 New York Times article on the program, the subsidy per passenger, averaged across the entire program excluding Alaska, is approximately $74, and much higher on some particularly poorly patronized flights where subsidies are as high as $801 per passenger.
Patronage on many flights is very low. The majority of EAS airplanes have fewer than 20 seats, and flights typically are less than half full. However, the program is politically popular in the cities receiving the subsidized flights, many of which use an airport with scheduled service as a selling point to attract industry to their regions. Several subsidized airports are within an hour's drive from an unsubsidized airport.
The following tables list all Essential Air Service communities under the various funding programs. This is based on the most recent reports issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and updated to reflect changes based on DOT orders. Docket and order numbers link to their respective pages on the docket management site, which typically includes the original files in PDF and other formats. The hubs are designated using the three-letter IATA airport code assigned by the International Air Transport Association.
Alternate Essential Air Service
The Alternate Essential Air Service program grants funds directly to the municipality or airport authority instead of the air carrier. This allows the community to recruit air service that would not otherwise meet EAS guidelines, such as more frequent service with smaller aircraft, less-than-daily service, flights to differing destinations at different times of the year or week, on-demand air taxi service, scheduled or on-demand ground surface transportation, regionalized air service, or even purchasing an aircraft. This alternative program has most often occurred as a public charter arrangement as prescribed by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 380. The first airport to enter this program was Manistee County Blacker Airport in 2012.
Community Flexibility Pilot Program
Under the Community Flexibility Pilot Program, established in 2003, up to ten communities can receive a grant equal to two years worth of subsidy in exchange for their forgoing their EAS service for ten years. These grants must be used to fund projects that will improve the airport for general aviation. As of November 2017, only one community has ever taken advantage of the program:
|CA||Visalia||Visalia Municipal Airport||$3,703,368||2004-19916||2017-1-2||Apr 30, 2026|
Subsidized EAS communities
Areas excluding Alaska
This article needs to be updated.(July 2018)
Communities formerly having subsidized EAS
The following tables list airports which formerly had Essential Air Service subsidized routes.
Areas excluding Alaska
|State||Community||Airport||Service to Hub(s)||Carrier||Aircraft/Seats||Annual
|KS||Dodge City||Dodge City Regional Airport||Denver (DEN)||PenAir||Saab 340 / 33||$1,593,702||1998-3502||2016-6-23||Sep 10, 2017|
|KS||Liberal, KS / Guymon, OK||Liberal Mid-America Regional Airport||Denver (DEN)||PenAir||Saab 340 / 33||$1,593,702||1998-3498||2016-6-23||Sep 10, 2017|
|NE||Kearney||Kearney Regional Airport||Denver (DEN)||PenAir||Saab 340 / 33||$3,513,473 (year 1)
$3,567,224 (year 2)
|1996-1715||2016-5-20||Sep 10, 2017|
|NE||North Platte||North Platte Regional Airport||Denver (DEN)||PenAir||Saab 340 / 33||$2,319,832 (year 1)
$2,291,955 (year 2)
|1999-5173||2016-5-20||Sep 10, 2017|
|NE||Scottsbluff||Western Nebraska Regional Airport||Denver (DEN)||PenAir||Saab 340 / 33||$2,256,166 (year 1)
$2,234,900 (year 2)
|2003-14535||2016-5-20||Sep 10, 2017|
|SD||Huron||Huron Regional Airport||Minneapolis (MSP)||Great Lakes Airlines||Beechcraft 1900D / 19||$2,552,000||2000-7138||2014-7-10||Sep 30, 2016|
|Community||Airport||Service to Hub(s)||Carrier||Aircraft||Annual
- US Department of Transportation: Policy - Essential Air Service
- US Department of Transportation: Policy - Essential Air Service Reports
- Regulations.gov - Federal Docket Management System
- Island Air Service - Kodiak, AK: Home Page
- Alaska Seaplane Service: Home Page
- Ward Air, Inc.: Home Page
- 40 Mile Air: Home Page
- Evergreen International Aviation, Inc.: Home Page (Web Archive)
- Copper Valley Air: Home Page
- Reeve Air Alaska: Home Page
- Category:Essential Air Service for airports subsidized by the EAS program
- Category:Former Essential Air Service airports for airports formerly subsidized by the EAS program
- Public service obligation
- "Essential Air Service". U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Retrieved 1 Oct 2014.
- Tang, Rachel Y. (3 September 2015). "Essential Air Service (EAS)" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- "Ten places to cut waste as Congress considers a budget", Romina Boccia, January 15, 2014, also published in the Washington Times.
- "Essential Air Service". Transportation.gov. US Department of Transportation. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
- "Federal Subsidies Keep Small-Town Airports Flying". NPR. November 18, 2009.
- Bailey, Jeff (October 6, 2006). "Subsidies Keep Airlines Flying to Small Towns". The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2006.
- "Comparison of Essential Air Service Program to Alternative Coach Bus Service" (PDF). American Bus Association. September 2011. Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. Archived as of February 2, 2012
- "EAS Program a Complete Taxpayer Waste", Eli Lehrer, Heartlander Magazine. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
- "Federal Subsidies Keep Small-Town Airports Flying". NPR. November 18, 2009.
- "Essential Air Service Reports". U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
- "US Non-Alaskan Subsidized EAS Report". U.S. Department of Transportation. October 2015. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
- "US Alaskan Subsidized EAS Report". U.S. Department of Transportation. October 2015. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
- "Airline and Airport Code Search". International Air Transport Association (IATA). Retrieved 29 Jun 2018.
- Kotler, Fred B. Passenger Air Service in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Overview and Analysis, UPWard Initiative, November 2012, Retrieved 2015-04-01
- Steinberg, Andrew B. (June 15, 2017). "Improving Air Service to Small and Rural Communities". US Department of Transportation. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
- "Order 2016-5-8 - Community Flexibility Pilot Program - Order Requesting Applications" (PDF). US Department of Transportation. May 17, 2016. Retrieved November 18, 2017.