In 1991, columnist George F. Will called the Essential Air Service (EAS) “just another entitlement. Congress says many small communities are entitled to air service even if market realities make it unprofitable for commercial carriers to provide it. This is foolishness; it is also routine.”
A quarter-century later, nothing has changed. Albuquerque Business First reports that Boutique Air “will begin offering three roundtrip flights a day between Albuquerque and Los Alamos.” (The airline already operates out of Carlsbad, Clovis and Silver City.)
Fares ($49, one-way) will be subsidized by the EAS. The U.S. Department of Transportation explains that the program provides “two to four round trips a day — with three being the norm — with 19-seat aircraft to a major hub airport.”
The Heartland Institute’s Eli Lehrer believes “there’s a good argument that [EAS], which cost a tick over $180 million last year, is the single most wasteful program in the government.” Even The New York Times, in a 2006 exposé, found that “the average number of passengers on each flight is about three.”
An empty spaceport, a money-losing rail line, and a taxpayer-supported airline — something is seriously wrong with transportation policy in the Land of Enchantment.