Key Vote YES: McCain Amendment to FAA Bill to Eliminate Essential Air Service Program

Dear Senator,

On behalf of over a million FreedomWorks members nationwide, I urge you to vote YES on Sen. McCain’s (R-Ariz.) amendment to S.223 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act which would eliminate the Essential Air Service (EAS). The EAS was created in the 1970’s to help a small number of rural communities retain access to air service after airline deregulation. Like so many other government programs, Congress initially enacted it to be a relatively small and temporary ten year program costing several million dollars annually. However, the needless program has continued for 23 years while costing taxpayers $200 million every year.

Along with many fiscally conservative groups, even the Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned the usefulness of the EAS by stating “current conditions raise concerns about whether the program can continue to operate as it has … the growth of air service especially by low-cost carriers – weighted against the relatively high fares and inconvenience of EAS flights.” Los Angeles Times reports that taxpayers are forced to subsidize airline service to small communities at a loss.  Most of the money provides service to rural airports with fewer than 30 passengers a day.

The ESA is a prime example of wasteful spending.  A graph produced by the FAA shows that 99.95 percent of all Americans live within 120 miles of a major public airport.  Airports should operate where there are consumers to support such an airport. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize rural airports with too little demand to justify their existence.  I urge you to repeal the EAS to save taxpayers $1 billion over the next five years.  It’s a step in the right direction to cut excessive spending wherever we find it.

This, however, is a modest step and should be easily supported by anyone serious about reining in the federal government.  In order to produce even more savings, Congress should look into privatizing airports to allow private capital to flow in.  Many other countries have successfully and fully privatized some of their airports including Britain, Italy and Australia.  The private sector has produced more efficient airports which have led to an increase in airport revenue.  The privatization of airports has been beneficial for consumers, airlines and taxpayers.

We will count your vote on Sen. McCain’s amendment to the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act as a KEY VOTE when calculating the FreedomWorks Economic Freedom Scorecard for 2011. The Economic Freedom Scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the Jefferson Award, which recognizes members of Congress with voting records that support economic freedom.


Matt Kibbe
President and CEO
[Click here to see a pdf version of this letter.]