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Waste of the Day: Ending The Essential Air Service Would Save $200 Million Annually

The Essential Air Service costs $200 million a year and has long outlived its usefulness following airline deregulation.

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The Essential Air Service, a way to provide air service in smaller communities, costs the U.S. $200 million every year for the barely-used, highly-subsidized program, according to Citizens Against Government Waste’s annual report “Prime Cuts,” a list of recommendations to reduce the record national debt.

The service was created in 1978 as a temporary measure to provide flights to smaller communities after airline deregulation. The concern was that small cities would lose air service, as airlines would choose larger, more lucrative routes.

Waste of the Day: Ending The Essential Air Service Would Save $200 Million Annually
Waste of the Day 12.25.23 by Open the Books

Intended to sunset after a decade, the program has been operating for 45 years, with the U.S. Department of Transportation providing subsidies to 175 rural communities in 32 states and Puerto Rico.

Most cities are subsidized at more than $100 per passenger, supporting largely empty flights that otherwise would never leave the ground.

The cities selected for the service haven’t changed since its inception, making small towns with approximately 10,000 people get subsidies.

“Tiny Ogdensburg, NY with 10,000 people and Massena, NY with 12,000 people get subsidies,” an airline industry executive wrote in Forbes. “Yet nearby Watertown, NY, with over 25,000 people, gets no subsidies today. People in Watertown must drive the just over one-hour trip to Syracuse, NY for their flights while the much smaller subsidized cities can board at their local airport on the taxpayer’s dime. Populations have changed in the last 40 years, but the EAS city designations haven’t kept pace.”


The program can spend thousands per passenger in rural areas and provide service to less than 30 passengers daily.

An airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania gets an EAS subsidy, “tirelessly defended by the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), from which just 18 flights leave each week. Johnstown is only two hours east of Pittsburgh International Airport by car,” Citizens Against Government Waste reported.

A 2015 study from West Virginia University found “strong evidence that subsidies are higher in districts having congressional representation on the House Transportation Committee.”

Other investigations have found “one flight between Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland – just about 75 miles apart – was so sparse the captain allowed the only other passenger who wasn’t our producer to sit in the co-pilot’s seat,” and cited two other flights on the same route with just one passenger each.

The investigative team found that, “A 19-seat plane from Cleveland to Dubois, Pennsylvania, about 180 miles east, had just one passenger as well.”


While the Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that passed in February 2012 limited EAS funding to airports that are more than 175 miles from a major hub and that move more than 10 passengers a day, it makes much more sense to eliminate the program entirely.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO/founder of Before dedicating his life to public service, Adam co-founded HomePages Directories, a $20 million publishing company (1997-2007). His works have been featured on the BBC, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, FOX News, CNN, National Public Radio (NPR), Forbes, Newsweek, and many other national media.

Today, is the largest private repository of U.S. public-sector spending. Mission: post "every dime, online, in real time." In 2022, captured nearly all public expenditures in the country, including nearly all disclosed federal government spending; 50 of 50 state checkbooks; and 25 million public employee salary and pension records from 50,000 public bodies across America.

The group's aggressive transparency and forensic auditing of government spending has led to the assembly of grand juries, indictments, and successful prosecutions; congressional briefings, hearings, and subpoenas; Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; federal legislation; and much more.

Our Honorary Chairman - In Memoriam is U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD.

Andrzejewski's federal oversight work was included in the President's Budget To Congress FY2021. The budget cited his organization by name, bullet-pointed their findings, and footnoted/hyperlinked to their report.

Posted on YouTube, Andrzejewski's presentation, The Depth of the Swamp, at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar 2020 in Naples, Florida received 3.8 million views.

Andrzejewski has spoken at the Columbia School of Journalism, Harvard Law School and the law schools at Georgetown and George Washington regarding big data journalism. As a senior policy contributor at Forbes, Adam had nearly 20 million pageviews on 206 published investigations. In 2022, investigative fact-finding on Dr. Fauci's finances led to his cancellation at Forbes.

In 2022, Andrzejewski did 473 live television and radio interviews across broadcast, major cable platforms, and radio shows. Andrzejewski is the author of The Waste of the Day column at Real Clear Policy. The column is syndicated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across USA.

Andrzejewski lives in Hinsdale, Illinois with his wife Kerry and three daughters. He is a lector at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church and has finished the Chicago Marathon eight times (PR 3:58.49 in 2022).


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