Senate kills a proposal to end subsidized rural air travel

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 17, 2011 

The Senate just defeated 61-38 a motion that would have gutted $200 million in annual airfare subsidies to rural and hard-to-reach places across the country, particularly Alaska.

Senators voted to kill a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would do away with the Essential Air Service entirely.

Separately, a House committee voted Wednesday to end the program, except in Alaska and Hawaii. About $12 million in subsidies go to airlines to encourage them to fly everywhere from Adak to Yakutat -- among 44 communities airlines say could be too expensive to service in Alaska otherwise.

Both of Alaska's senators took to the floor of the Senate this week to defend Essential Air Service, saying that without the subsidies, air travel in some communities is so prohibitively expensive that their communities would be all but inaccessible. Alaska lawmakers have long argued the program is no different than subsidizing Lower 48 highways

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