Air Transport World

Strong support for Essential Air Service. (scheduled for termination)

Strong support for Essential Air Service

One of the last vestiges of the airline deregulation process, the Essential Air Service program (EAS), is scheduled to terminate next year, but few of those familiar with the politically popular program expect that to happen. Five bills to extend EAS are currently before Congress, and support for the measures appears to be substantial in both houses.

The EAS program was included in the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act as a transitional safeguard for small communities, to protect them from loss of air service as carriers, freed from economic control, abandoned routes they viewed as unprofitable. During the life of the program, no community that was on an air carrier's certificate in 1978 was to be allowed to completely lose its place in the scheduled air transport network. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was given the authority to enforce that guarantee, using federal subsidies to airlines when necessary. If a carrier announced its intention to withdraw from a market and a community would lose essential air service as a result, the CAB could require the carrier to continue the service until an alternate was established. After the CAB ceased operation at the end of 1984, the EAS program moved to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Under regulation there were subsidies and fare approvals that made it worthwhile for large jet carriers to operate in some of even the smallest markets. …

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