More Flexible Eligibility Criteria Could Enhance the Small Communities Essential Air Service Subsidy Program

Gao ID: RCED-83-97 May 18, 1983

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided its views on: (1) whether the essential air service subsidy program's eligibility criteria contained in the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 should be changed; and (2) alternatives available to administer the program after the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) ceases to exist in 1985.

Under the Airline Deregulation Act, communities are guaranteed essential air service if they were listed on the routes of CAB certified air carriers on the date of the act. As of October 1982, CAB was paying airlines to provide service to 85 communities that would otherwise have had all service canceled. CAB cannot discontinue subsidies to any of the communities with an air service guarantee, even where a community cannot realistically be expected to support air service when the subsidy program expires. GAO believes that the essential air service program could be more cost effective and have more long-term value if CAB were authorized to give communities the opportunity to develop an economically sound market during the remaining transition period. If the act's eligibility criteria were more flexible, CAB could discontinue subsidies to communities that probably will not be able to retain service after the subsidies end. If the community has the potential to be a viable self-supporting market, but poor air service in the past has discouraged passengers, CAB could improve a community's competitive position with temporary subsidy increases to improve flight scheduling, services, and promotion. Additionally, GAO found no overriding reasons why the program should not be transferred to the Department of Transportation, as provided in the act, when CAB ceases to exist.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Oliver W. Krueger Team: General Accounting Office: Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Phone: (202) 275-5514

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.