June 7, 2011 By: Nina Keck
(Host) With the summer travel season heating up – small regional airports like those in Rutland and Lebanon are worried about proposed cuts to the federal essential air service program that subsidizes their passenger airline service.
VPR’s Nina Keck has more.
(Keck) Dave Carman, manager of the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport says it’s hard to know what lawmakers in Washington will decide concerning the subsidy program.
A bill passed by the Senate bill would authorize $200 million for it, while a bill passed by the house would phase out the program. Cape Air receives just under $800,000 a year to provide three flights a day in and out of Rutland.
11,500 passengers used the service last year. Cape Air officials say that breaks down to about $69 in federal subsidies per passenger.
In negotiating their latest contract with the government, Cape Air says it sought a lower subsidy amount because rider-ship in and out of Rutland has steadily increased – 26 percent this year alone.
Airport manager Dave Carman says compared to a lot of communities, Rutland’s subsidy is low.
(Carman) “There’s a lot of communities where they are requiring additional subsidies year to year and I think the fact that we’re requiring less is actually a success story in and of itself that people are using the service and I think compared to other communities I think it’s definitely a wise investment maintaining that service.”
(Keck) At Lebanon Municipal airport, manager Rick Dyment says he too is watching the debate in Washington closely. He says nearly 16,000 passengers flew in and out of Lebanon’s airport last year. Cape Air services six round trip flights a day and Dyment says the airline received more than $2.3 million in federal subsidies – about $147 per passenger.
Both Dyment and Dave Carman in Rutland say losing the federal funding would be devastating. Lawmakers in favor of canceling the EAS program say it’s wasteful and getting rid of it could save the country $400 million over four years.
Source: VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO