How many folks would you say fly from Atlanta to Macon on a daily basis? 30? 20? 10? Try less than 3 per day, but yet we’re continuing to fund it. Georgia Skies was chosen by the Department of Transportation to fly the route in 2008, but also received federal funds in order to keep the route in operation. There are 2 airlines currently vying to replace Georgia Skies and continue the daily flight between the sprawling metropolis and the lesser, but both airlines are asking for $1.5 million in federal subsidies in order to operate. The request is under the “Essential Air Service” where smaller communities were guaranteed to have air service:
The Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978, gave airlines almost total freedom to determine which markets to serve domestically and what fares to charge for that service. The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service. The Department currently subsidizes commuter airlines to serve approximately 140 rural communities across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.
The two companies are asking for a sizable chunk to keep the flight on the go:
American Aviation Group, a company based in West Palm Beach, American Aviation Group, says it wants to run six flights a day between Macon and Atlanta. They’re asking for $1,555,825 in federal subsidies.
Based on the number of people who flew to and from Atlanta — 1,988 — that’s a subsidy of $782 per passenger.
Sun Air Express, a company based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wants to run four flights on weekdays to and from Atlanta.
They’re asking for $1,946,266 in federal money — that’s $979 a passenger, based on last year’s ridership.
The Athens-Atlanta Essential Air Service route was about $135 per passenger in 2009 and saw a 41% increase in passengers from 2008 and 2009 (I haven’t seen recent stats) according to a 2010 AJC article. Macon is approximately an hour south of Atlanta. I don’t think it costs me more than $50 for a tank of gas to drive that far (I’m pretty sure much less than that). I’m sure some there is a bus or van route that exists to perform a similar function to flying to the Atlanta airport (granted, you’d have to go through security in Atlanta….that’s always a fun experience).
It’s a lot of your money being spent for 20 minutes in the air.