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Regional Aviation Partners Disputes CBS Article 'Taxpayers Shell Out For Near-Empty Flights'

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2008-05-15 05:55:13     
Regional Aviation Partners

For more than 7 years, CBS and other media outlets have used the same story line to attack the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. In response to their most recent criticism, Regional Aviation Partners (RAP) disputes the numbers reported by CBS in their May 2nd broadcast and we completely disagree with the premise and inaccuracy of the story line.

While it makes an eye catching headline, it is completely disingenuous to knowingly tell the public that the EAS program is paying more than $843 per passenger to fly empty planes to and from small communities at taxpayer expense when it is not.

BUT, here is what CBS didn't tell you! There are 106 subsidized EAS communities located in the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico. Those 106 communities accounted for 1,093,114 Origin and Destination (O&D) passengers program wide in 2007. Subsidies paid in 2007 to these communities total $108,198,135. [Source: U.S. Department of Transportation]

Thus, the actual cost of the subsidy program wide is $ 98.98 per passenger, not the $848 reported per passenger by CBS! The per passenger number provided by CBS is impossible, considering that the congressionally mandated $200 per passenger subsidy cap still exists! Moreover, when you factor in the economic benefit and tax revenue generated by the air carriers to both local and federal governments, the impact on the taxpayer is pale indeed to the amount of taxpayer funds expended to maintain viable air service in small communities across America.

"The CBS news report fails to look at Congress' role in not acknowledging they were mistaken in their approach to protect small communities after deregulation. Small communities have virtually been 'thrown under the bus' when it comes to air service -- a political casualty if you will. Throw in the events of September 11th, a foreseeable fuel crisis and government inaction and now you really do have a problem," said Maurice Parker, President/Executive Director of Regional Aviation Partners.

CBS was quick to report one sided examples of alleged waste of taxpayer funds by focusing on near empty flights in several small communities. Those examples are not reflective of the program's overall success when viewed on a program wide basis.

In their eagerness to attack the program, they also went so far as to assail the efforts of retiring Congressman John Peterson (R-5-PA) for representing the interests of his constituents in support of essential air service in his own community. We think that kind of "gotcha" journalism is reprehensible.

Congressman Peterson is among a handful of active representatives who listens to his constituents and is one who has worked tirelessly during his career to support programs which benefited the electorate in his district. If there were more representatives like Congressman Peterson in Congress, I would feel reassured that we would have a solution to the air service crisis in small communities rather than watching the media attack the messenger. This is unfortunate, but it is also reality when the political winds of change become turbulent and both media and political pundits look to "point the finger" without addressing the real problem, said Parker.

There is one thing that is ominously missing from the CBS report -- That is "Why" the program is not performing as originally intended? We went from 85 subsidized communities in 1982 to more than 106 communities in 2007.

Does that mean we should just "scrap" the program or should we assess what the problem is and try to fix it? According to Parker, these are questions that must be addressed by members of Congress and small communities who were promised access to the National Air Transportation System.

Regional Aviation Partners (RAP) was formed as a non-profit grassroots lobbying organization to represent the interests of small communities, regional airlines, consumers and the business entities that serve them. RAP serves as an independent voice covering issues confronting air service to rural and small communities. http://www.regionalaviationpartners.org.

Specialized in: Regional Aviation Partners - Cbs
URL: http://www.regionalaviationpartners.org
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