North Dakota Delegation Announces Rural Passenger Air Service Costing Federal Taxpayers Thousands Per Flight
According a press release sent out by North Dakota’s federal delegation – Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad as well as Rep. Rick Berg – they’ve selected a new air service provider for the Jamestown Airport to operate under the Essential Air Service program. This new provider, Great Lakes Aviation, “will offer 18 nonstop, round trip flights per week to Minneapolis” according to the press release.
Assuming a consistent weekly schedule throughout the year, that’s a total of 936 departures. Missing from the press release, though, is an important figure. Namely, how much Great Lakes will be paid by the federal taxpayers for providing these services.
According to documents from the Department of Transportation, “Great Lakes proposes to operate eighteen nonstop round trips per week to Minneapolis with 19-seat Beech 1900 aircraft, with upline service to Devils Lake, and requested $1,987,655 annualsubsidy for this service.”
That’s a subsidy of roughly $2,123 per flight from our federal government which just ran a budget deficit over $1 trillion for a third consecutive year.
But that’s not the only cushy deal Great Lakes Aviation is getting in North Dakota. Notice the reference to “upline service” to Devils Lake. The Department of Transportation also has a contract with Great Lakes to provide two flights per day (712 flights per year) out of Devils Lake for an annual subsidy $2,797,467 or a per-flight subsidy of roughly $3,929.
Given that flights from both Jamestown and Devils Lake are subsidized, if Great Lakes starts in Jamestown and makes a stop in Devils Lake on the way to Minneapolis the entire flight is subsidized to the tune of $6,061 on top of what passengers pay for their tickets.
And how many passengers are we talking about? The average number of passengers per flight out of Devils Lake from May of 2006 through May of 2011 was 6.24. For Jamestown it was 3.83.
Not exactly what I’d call “essential air service,” despite this subsidy program’s title.
Senator John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg are both Republicans who campaigned on fiscal responsibility in the last campaign cycle to get elected to their present positions. Senator Kent Conrad has made a career out of being a “budget hawk” or a “deficit hawk.” And yet, these men endorse air travel subsidies to the tune of thousands of federal tax dollars per flight for airports that are just a little more than an hour’s drive away from multiple cities where air travel doesn’t have to be subsidized.
And we wonder why our federal government has spending problems.
Tags: department of transportation, devils lake, essential air service, faa, jamestown, John Hoeven, Kent Conrad, North Dakota News, Rick Berg
Great Lakes Aviation Will Provide Long-term Service to Jamestown, Delegation says
Airline Will Begin Service in March Between Jamestown and MSP
Washington – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg announced today that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected Great Lakes Aviation to provide long-term Essential Air Service to Jamestown.
“This is indeed welcome news for the people of Jamestown and the surrounding communities. Plans can be made and schedules can be kept as Jamestown will once again have reliable air service into and out of their community,” the delegation said in a joint statement.
It is expected that Great Lakes Aviation will start service on or about March 12. Once service begins, Great Lakes Aviation will offer 18 nonstop, round trip flights per week to Minneapolis. The airline will service the flights using the 19-seat Beech 1900 aircraft.
Great Lakes Aviation is based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and provides passenger service at 42 airports in eleven states.
Great Lakes Aviation is filling the void that will be left by Delta Airlines, which announced last year that it would suspend service into Jamestown and Devils Lake. Immediately after Delta announced its decision to leave Jamestown, the Congressional delegation went to work with the airport and DOT, to find a solution to ensure reliable air service was maintained.
Last month, the Congressional delegation announced that Great Lakes Aviation had agreed to service Devils Lake and now offers two round trip flights a day to Minneapolis – St. Paul (MSP). The airline plans to increase to three round trips a day by February 1.
The Jamestown and Devils Lake flights are operating as Great Lakes Aviation, still connecting to Delta Airlines.