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Waste of the Day: Nebraska Spent $3.7 Million On Doomed Airline

Nebraska and federal officials spent $3.7 million in COVID relief funds to prop up an airline that failed anyway.

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Topline: Red Way Airlines opened for business in June 2023 and went bankrupt less than three months later. In that time, it managed to suck up $3.7 million in pandemic relief money from the federal government and the state of Nebraska, a new state audit found.

Key facts: Red Way was conceived as a new way to offer affordable charter flights from the Lincoln, Nebraska airport. It received a $3 million grant to cover the losses most airlines suffer during their first few months, with Lancaster County and the City of Lincoln each contributing $1.5 million of their stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Waste of the Day: Nebraska Spent $3.7 Million On Doomed Airline
Waste of the Day 2.26.24 by Open the Books

The airline’s inaugural flight traveled from Lincoln to Orlando on June 8. It was the only Red Way flight to ever turn a profit.

Issues with high operating costs and low demand for flights out of Lincoln quickly arose. Some flights took off half-empty. Tickets were available for $9.

Red Way’s grant request predicted that it would sell $8.8 million in tickets in three months, but actual sales were less than one quarter of that. Meanwhile, Red Way continued flights to seven destinations — higher than normal for a brand-new airline — meaning grant funds were quickly drained.

To try and save Red Way, county officials sent another $700,000 in funding before the airline folded.


All parties involved appeared to be blissfully ignorant to the airline’s impending doom. Ten days before the company shut its doors, Lincoln Airport sent an email to a Lancaster County official stating that business “continued to do well.”

The airline has still not refunded an estimated $100,000 in ticket sales for canceled flights, even after the Nebraska Attorney General got involved.

Critical quote: State Auditor Mike Foley said officials missed obvious warning signs about Red Way’s business strategy.

“Had the Red Way business plan been prepared for the eyes of a reputable commercial bank lender, its proponents would not have gotten past the junior teller,” Foley said in a statement. “The cavalier treatment of government funds as monopoly money paved the way for the plan to be sold as a worthy risk to elected officials, who accepted it with few questions asked.”

Supporting quote: Lincoln Airport Authority’s Dave Haring said he did not regret taking a calculated risk on the airline.


“Certainly, we are all disappointed that it went through the proceeds as fast as it did. But I don’t know that I would apologize for taking a chance to try to get air service in the community,” Haring said.

Summary: Plenty of businesses have lied and committed fraud to secure pandemic relief funding. But Red Way’s only sin that led to wasting $3.7 million was genuine, earnest failure.

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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