Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Rachel Tang Analyst in Transportation Policy March 3, 2011 Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R41666 CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Contents Introduction ................................................................................................................................1 What is Essential Air Service?.....................................................................................................1 How Is EAS Funded?..................................................................................................................2 What Are the Eligibility Requirements? ......................................................................................2 How Many Communities Are Receiving EAS Subsidies?............................................................2 How Does DOT Select EAS Carriers?.........................................................................................2 What Are the Current Legislative Issues? ....................................................................................3 Appendixes Appendix A. List of Subsidized EAS outside of Alaska ...............................................................4 Appendix B. List of Subsidized EAS in Alaska ...........................................................................8 Contacts Author Contact Information ........................................................................................................9 Congressional Research Service Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Introduction The 112th Congress continues to work on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Essential Air Service (EAS) is one of the major issues being debated in the process. A pending House reauthorization bill (H.R. 658) and the reauthorization bill recently approved by the Senate (S. 223) include different provisions affecting the EAS program, and the issue is also addressed in H.R. 408, the Spending Reduction Act of 2011. This report provides an overview of the EAS program and the legislative issues.1 What is Essential Air Service? The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-504) gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which domestic markets to serve and what airfares to charge. This raised the concern that communities with relatively low passenger levels would lose service as carriers shifted their operations to serve larger and often more-profitable markets. To address this concern, Congress added section 419 to the Federal Aviation Act,2 which established the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure that smaller communities would retain a link to the national air transportation system. The purpose of the EAS program is to provide a continuation of service to those small communities that were served by certified air carriers before deregulation, with subsidies if necessary. The EAS program is now administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT), which determines the minimum level of service required at each eligible community by specifying • a hub through which the community is linked to the national network, • a minimum number of round trips and available seats that must be provided to that hub, • certain characteristics of the aircraft to be used, and • the maximum permissible number of intermediate stops to the hub. Where necessary, DOT provides federal subsidies to a carrier to ensure that the specified level of service is provided. 1 The major source used for this report is information and data of the Essential Air Service Program provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Aviation Analysis, http://ostpxweb.dot.gov/aviation/X50%20Role_files/essentialairservice.htm. 2 Effective June 1994, the Federal Aviation Act was recodified as subtitles II, III, and V-X of 49 U.S.C., “Transportation.” The former section 419 of the Federal Aviation Act is now 49 U.S.C 41731-41742. Congressional Research Service 1 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions How Is EAS Funded? The EAS program is funded through annual transfers of FAA overflight fees, supplemented by annual appropriations of varying size. In FY2010, the total EAS authorization was $200 million. This amount includes $50 million in annual mandatory funding from FAA overflight fees, along with a discretionary appropriation of $150 million. What Are the Eligibility Requirements? According to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-504), communities receiving scheduled air service from a certified carrier on October 24, 1978, are eligible for EAS benefits. At that time, there were 746 eligible communities, including approximately 200 in Alaska. Over the years, Congress and DOT have worked to streamline the program and make it more efficient, mostly by eliminating subsidy support from communities within a reasonable driving distance from a major hub airport. Communities are excluded from eligibility for subsidies if • they are located fewer than 70 miles from the nearest large or medium hub airport; or • they require a rate of subsidy per passenger in excess of $200, unless the community is more than 210 miles from the nearest hub airport. These limitations apply only to the contiguous 48 states. However, these eligibility requirements may change depending on the final text of which legislation, if any, is adopted by Congress. How Many Communities Are Receiving EAS Subsidies? DOT currently subsidizes air service to serve approximately 150 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service. As of May 1, 2010, DOT was subsidizing service at 109 communities in the contiguous 48 states, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, and 44 communities in Alaska. Appendix A and Appendix B provide lists of the subsidized EAS communities and their annual subsidy rates (as of May 1, 2010). In general, DOT subsidizes two to four round trips with small aircraft a day from an EAS community to a major hub airport. How Does DOT Select EAS Carriers? DOT issues a request for proposals (RPF) to all scheduled carriers and institutes a carrier selection proceeding using a bid system. However, this is not a low-bid system because DOT is required by the governing statutes to meet the following four criteria when selecting air carriers to serve EAS communities: (1) service reliability, (2) contractual and marketing arrangements with a Congressional Research Service 2 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions larger carrier at the hub, (3) interline arrangements with a larger carrier at the hub, and (4) community views. These RFPs from DOT advise air carriers that their proposals for subsidy should be submitted on a sealed bid, “best and final” basis, and set forth the level of service (frequency, aircraft size, and hubs) that would be appropriate for the community given its location and traffic history. Once the carrier proposals are received, DOT formally solicits the views of the communities as to which carrier and option they prefer. After receiving the communities’ input, DOT issues a decision designating the selected air carrier and specifying the specific service pattern (routing, frequency, and type of aircraft), annual subsidy rate, and effective period of the rate. DOT generally establishes a two-year EAS service contract, which allows for the competitive bidding process to curb subsidy costs and gives communities and DOT flexibility to switch carriers if appropriate. What Are the Current Legislative Issues? The 112th Congress continues to work on legislation reauthorizing the FAA. A pending House bill and the recently approved Senate bill include different provisions with regard to EAS. An FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 658) would phase out the program over three years, ending EAS in the contiguous states on September 30, 2013. Only Alaska and Hawaii would be eligible for EAS subsidies afterwards. The current cost of EAS in Alaska is less than $13 million annually. As of May 1, 2010, EAS flights in Hawaii were subsidy-free. H.R. 658 would reduce the mandatory annual appropriation to the amount necessary to provide EAS in those two states. H.R. 408 would prohibit the spending of any federal money for EAS. The bill passed by the Senate on February 17, 2011 (S. 223), would extend the program but add more restrictions. Specifically, it would limit EAS subsidies to airports that are 90 miles or more from the nearest medium or large hub, an increase from the current limit of 70 miles. S. 223 would also limit EAS subsidies to locations that have 10 or more enplanements per day, except in Alaska. However, the FAA administrator would be able to waive both the distance requirement and the minimum enplanements requirement. An amendment to the bill offered by Senator McCain (S.Amdt. 4) that proposed to repeal the EAS program altogether was tabled and not included in the Senate-passed version of S. 223. The FAA reauthorization language would eventually need to be incorporated into a House bill, because the reauthorization includes an extension of excise taxes and is therefore a revenue measure. Under Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, all bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. Congressional Research Service 3 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Appendix A. List of Subsidized EAS outside of Alaska State Number of EAS Communities AL 1 Muscle Shoals MEM $1,782,928 AR 4 El Dorado/Camden MEM $2,096,517 MEM/MCI $1,695,929 Hot Springs MEM $1,419,102 Jonesboro MEM $836,241 Kingman LAS $1,275,771 Page PHX $1,995,273 ONT/DEN $1,622,719 PHX $1,407,255 SFO/SMF $1,136,896 EAS Community Harrison AZ 4 Prescott Show Low CA CO GA IA IL KS KY 4 3 2 3 3 6 2 Congressional Research Service Crescent City Hub(s) Annual EAS Subsidy as of May 1, 2010 El Centro LAX $662,551 Merced LAS $1,541,365 Visalia ONT $1,494,319 Alamosa DEN $1,853,475 Cortez DEN $1,297,562 Pueblo DEN $1,299,821 Athens ATL $1,051,386 Macon ATL $1,386,306 Burlington STL/ORD $2,171,241 Fort Dodge MSP $1,112,607 Mason City MSP $1,112,607 STL/ORD $3,082,403 Marion/Herrin STL $2,053,783 Quincy STL $1,946,270 Dodge City DEN/MCI $1,842,749 Garden City DEN/MCI $1,884,303 Great Bend MCI $1,257,617 Hays DEN $1,954,327 Liberal/Guymon, OK DEN $1,958,570 Salina MCI $1,489,435 Owensboro BNA $1,068,773 Paducah ORD $569,923 Decatur 4 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions State Number of EAS Communities MD 1 Hagerstown BWI $1,203,167 ME 4 Augusta/Waterville BOS $2,086,251 Bar Harbor BOS $2,086,251 Presque Isle/Houlton BOS $2,643,588 Rockland BOS $1,522,770 Escanaba DTW/MSP $1,435,118 ORD $1,404,714 DTW/MSP $1,435,118 Ironwood/Ashland, WI MKE $1,492,865 Manistee MKE $1,799,395 Muskegon ORD $660,720 Chisholm/Hibbing MSP $2,938,878 Thief River Falls MSP $1,230,322 Cape Girardeau STL $1,573,818 Columbia/Jefferson City MEM $2,186,590 Fort Leonard Wood STL $1,292,906 Joplin MCI $997,680 Kirksville STL $806,169 Greenville MEM $1,355,693 Laurel/Hattiesburg MEM $1,191,435 Meridian ATL $686,489 Glasgow BIL $928,433 Glendive BIL $1,056,152 Havre BIL $1,036,616 Lewistown DEN $1,036,616 Miles City DEN $1,056,152 Sidney DEN $2,159,591 West Yellowstone SLC $427,757 Wolf Point BIL $928,433 Devils Lake MSP $1,459,493 Dickinson DEN $2,274,177 Jamestown MSP $1,963,220 Alliance DEN $977,609 Chadron DEN $977,609 Grand Island DEN $2,271,640 Kearney DEN $1,978,386 MI 6 EAS Community Hancock/Houghton Iron Mountain/Kingsford MN MO MS MT ND NE 2 5 3 8 3 7 Congressional Research Service Hub(s) Annual EAS Subsidy as of May 1, 2010 5 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions State Number of EAS Communities EAS Community Hub(s) Annual EAS Subsidy as of May 1, 2010 McCook DEN $1,583,277 North Platte DEN $1,860,229 Scottsbluff DEN $1,535,085 BOS/HPN $2,245,669 NH 1 Lebanon/White River Junction,VT NM 4 Alamogordo/Holloman AFB ABQ $1,169,337 Carlsbad ABQ $1,046,284 Clovis ABQ $1,517,277 Silver City/Hurley/Deming ABQ $1,442,174 NV 1 Ely DEN $1,864,717 NY 6 Jamestown CLE $1,350,803 Massena ALB $1,297,613 Ogdensburg ALB $1,353,916 Plattsburgh BOS $1,379,257 Saranac Lake/Lake Placid BOS $1,366,538 Watertown ALB $1,228,334 OR 1 Pendleton PDX $1,608,394 PA 6 Altoona IAD $1,394,423 Bradford CLE $1,350,803 DuBois CLE $2,020,095 Johnstown IAD $1,394,423 Lancaster BWI $1,372,474 Oil City/Franklin CLE $1,226,773 Mayaguez SJU $980,980 Ponce SJU $740,416 Huron DEN $1,781,159 Watertown MSP $1,338,321 PR SD 2 2 TN 1 Jackson BNA $1,225,628 TX 1 Victoria IAH $1,593,922 UT 3 Cedar City SLC $1,477,125 Moab DEN $1,798,370 Vernal DEN $1,421,478 VA 1 Staunton IAD $1,911,466 VT 1 Rutland BOS $797,141 WI 1 Eau Claire ORD $1,732,372 Congressional Research Service 6 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions State Number of EAS Communities WV 5 WY Total 2 EAS Community Hub(s) Annual EAS Subsidy as of May 1, 2010 Beckley IAD $2,092,844 Clarksburg IAD $1,058,325 Greenbrier/White Sulphur Spr./Lewisburg CLE $2,330,725 Morgantown IAD $1,058,325 Parkersburg/Marietta IAD $2,190,281 Laramie DEN $1,215,603 Worland DEN $1,735,814 109 $163,010,029 Source: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Aviation Analysis, U.S. Subsidized EAS Report, May 1, 2010. Note: Information provided in Appendix A is subject to change. Congressional Research Service 7 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Appendix B. List of Subsidized EAS in Alaska Alaskan EAS Community Hub EAS Subsidy Rate as of May 1, 2010 Adak ANC $1,483,122 Akutan DUT $654,964 Alitak ADQ $15,219 Amook Bay ADQ $12,175 Angoon JNU $101,359 Atka DUT $513,803 Cape Yakataga YAK $39,000 Central FAI $203,360 Chatham JNU $8,640 Chisana TOK $65,546 FAI $203,360 Circle Cordova ANC/JNU Elfin Cove JNU $92,886 Excursion Inlet JNU $34,659 Funter Bay JNU $8,640 Gulkana ANC $251,300 Gustavus JNU $340,777 Healy Lake FAI $77,683 Hydaburg KTN $86,755 Icy Bay YAK $39,000 Kake JNU $314,302 Karluk ADQ $29,481 Kitoi Bay ADQ $12,175 Lake Minchumina FAI $42,560 Manley FAI $42,085 May Creek GKN $86,676 McCarthy GKN $86,676 FAI $42,085 Moser Bay ADQ $15,219 Nikolski DUT $469,786 Olga Bay ADQ $15,219 Pelican JNU $92,886 JNU/KTN $673,598 SIT $60,083 Minto Petersburg Port Alexander Congressional Research Service $2,726,212 8 Essential Air Service: Frequently Asked Questions Alaskan EAS Community Hub EAS Subsidy Rate as of May 1, 2010 Port Bailey ADQ $12,175 Port Williams ADQ $12,175 Rampart FAI $86,701 Seal Bay ADQ $12,175 Tenakee JNU $63,748 Uganik ADQ $12,175 West Point ADQ $12,175 Wrangell JNU/KTN $673,598 Yakutat ANC/JNU $2,726,212 Zachar Bay ADQ Total $12,175 $12,564,599 Source: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Office of Aviation Analysis, Alaska Subsidized EAS Report, May 1, 2010. Note: Information provided in Appendix B is subject to change. Author Contact Information Rachel Tang Analyst in Transportation Policy rtang@crs.loc.gov, 7-7875 Congressional Research Service 9