Imagine sharing an entire commercial flight with less than ten other passengers. Apparently, it happens all the time in the U.S. While fares have been steadily increasing for the rest of the country’s air travelers, close to 3000 passengers everyday fly on heavily subsidized flights to nearby cities. USA Today reports that they are part of a program, begun in 1978, that guarantees rural communities a commercial air service.
Fares are rock bottom. A round trip flight from Lewistown, Montana to Billings costs just $88, and it’s not uncommon to have flights with barely four passengers. As much as 93 percent of some of these flights is government subsidized.
The well intentioned program that started as part of the governments’ support scheme for rural America has steadily won its share of criticism. Many argue that such flights — which cost the government a cool $110 million every year – can be done away with because the hubs are close enough to be reached by road. For instance, at least 24 communities that enjoy these low cost services are reportedly within 90 miles from a decent sized airport that had at least a million passengers last year.
Even in the face of increased criticism, Congress has increased funding to the program, saying it provides access to these isolated communities, thereby aiding development.
Another example of your tax dollars hard at work!