$4,107

That’s how much it costs taxpayers to subsidize each ticket into the bustling metropolis of Ely, Nevada, and the cause of the great pissing match in DC about the cut in funding to the FAA. From the AP:

On some days, the pilots with Great Lakes Airlines fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nev., airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press show that in 2010, just 227 passengers flew out of Ely while the airline got $1.8 million in subsidies. The travelers paid $70 to $90 for a one-way ticket. The cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107.

Ely is one of 153 rural communities where airlines get subsidies through the $200 million Essential Air Service program, and one of 13 that critics say should be eliminated from it. Some call the spending a boondoggle, but others see it as a critical financial lifeline to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

Steve Smith, executive director of the Jackson, Tenn., airport authority, also has seen empty or near empty flights take off, since the airlines get paid per flight, not per passenger. The subsidy amounted to $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of Smith’s airport last year, though few if any passengers knew that.

“They fly the empty plane so they can still get the money,” Smith said.

Empty planes, empty suits. What’s the difference anymore, eh? Empty planes flying into Ely, Nevada, to line the pockets of the airline, the airport employees, and the single janitor who can clean the entire facility in less than 30 minutes. I’m sure he’s the one who pulls the luggage from the hold, too. Why do we wonder where the money goes or why we’re broke when we subsidize empty flights so that a handful of people can hold on to their jobs? Who’s brilliant idea was it to build an airport in a town of 4,255 people? 

If the bustling tourist town of Ely can’t support an airport on its own sans taxpayer support, then the airport should close.

It really is that simple, y’all.

Linked by Pundette as a “Recommended Read.” Thanks!

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3 Responses

  1. Appalling.

    Linked at Quite Rightly’s List of Good Places to Start Budget Cutting.

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