Each year, Washington’s Essential Air Service program pays about $1.6 million for three daily flights between here and Dulles International Airport outside of Washington. Most flights have 10 or fewer people on board and the airport is virtually deserted. Many travelers drive two hours to Pittsburgh, Pa., where fares are often lower and flights are plentiful.
Replace Dulles with Albany International Airport and Pittsburgh with Syracuse, and that’s the picture in Ogdensburg. (Actually, the subsidy is slightly lower at around $1 million.)
What the two airports and a plane-load of rural airports nationwide have in common is a big federal subsidy and very low ridership.
At a moment when Congress appears ready to endanger the nation’s ability to pay its bills over the future of the deficit, rural air subsidies go untouched.
Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the subsidy’s biggest defenders has said countless times the airports are critical to rural economies.
But, argues the New York Times article, cutting these and other largely non-essential subsidies could take a big bite out of the national debt:
The subsidy programs are as varied as warehouses that allow farmers to store cotton and peanuts at government expense until prices rise and an estimated $100 million tax break for owners of Nascar racetracks.
Various private and government studies show that nearly $1.8 trillion over the next five years could be saved by eliminating or reducing spending on some of the subsidies.
I’ll be honest – flying out of Ogdensburg is way too expensive and time-consuming (more time spent on layovers) for me. I fly from Syracuse generally.
Could you live without the rural airports in Ogdensburg, Massena, Saranac Lake? Or are they critical North Country infrastructure?