You Paid $3,652 For My Short Flight. Thanks!

Silver Airlines*update 6/13/2013 – common sense prevails as Essential Air Service subsidies for Lewistown and Miles City are finally cancelled


Thank you, taxpayers!

I just booked a flight from Lewistown to Billings.   I fly frequently out of Billings, and usually I just drive to the airport – it’s only a two-hour trip.  I often stay overnight at a Billings hotel so I can leave my vehicle there until my return, because long-term parking at the airport is pretty expensive.  But last week I read in our local paper that we are only averaging one passenger per day through our Lewistown airport.  That’s one passenger for two flights in and two flights out.  Per day.  Kind of embarrassing.

So I thought I would check it out.  My airfare was only $71!  Heck, I would spend that on gas taking my truck to Billings and back, plus I would have to pay for a hotel or parking.  Why not?

How, you may ask, can air transportation from a little town like Lewistown be such a bargain?  It’s called Essential Air Service.   You wonderful taxpayers subsidize our tiny airline to make sure we don’t have to buy gas from a greedy privately-owned gas station and spend money at some evil, profit-hungry privately-owned hotel.  It’s one of those programs that our federal government says we just can’t live without.   In fact, they absolutely must raise our taxes because programs like this are . . . well, essential.

I am just overwhelmed at your generosity.  I looked up the Essential Air Service subsidy for Lewistown to see how much you are paying for my trip.   Let’s see, the most recent annual contract provides a $1,325,733 subsidy to Silver Airlines for serving Lewistown.  One passenger per day for 365 days, that’s about 365 passengers per year . . .  hmm, according to my simple math, you taxpayers are paying about $3,632 for my short trip to Billings.

Denny Rehberg and Jon Tester and Max Baucus are all big supporters of Essential Air Service.   Some other stingy Congressmen tried to shut down the program, but your Montana buddies don’t have any problem with you guys paying $3,632 for me to fly to Billings.   Oh, plus $3,632 when I return.  I mean after all, heh heh heh . . . it’s not their money!

So thanks again, I’ll be thinking of you as I glide over the Rimrocks into Billings-Logan airport to make my connecting flight.  You know, the Rimrocks sure are pretty, you can look right over the fiscal cliff . . .

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideGimme a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain’t got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter!
I don’t care how much money I gotta spend
Got to get back to my baby again
Lonely days are gone, I’m a-goin’ home
My baby just wrote me a letter!

The Letter – by the Box Tops

7 thoughts on “You Paid $3,652 For My Short Flight. Thanks!

  1. While I agree that EAS is expensive, I think we also have to consider that the air service does go to Havre on the same trips. A more thought-provoking idea, though Tom, is that without the EAS, there is no public transportation into or out of Central Montana; that’s right, no bus service, no train service, nothing, nada, no way. The Central MT shuttle does go to Great Falls and Billings on some schedule…like every two weeks or so. So if people don’t (or can’t) drive, they are left with no options. I’m not saying that they would take the plane, but right now it is pretty much their only option . That said, I am wondering how you were able to get a connecting flight after you arrived in Billings. I can never find a flight to connect to if I chose to fly out of Lewistown. As a result, I drive to Billings and stay with one of my kids, who then takes me to the airport. They keep my car at their house.

    • Mike! How many handicap and senior buses could we buy and run with $3,652 per day? Spending $1.3 mil of your tax money per year for this kind of profligate waste is just criminal. We could buy taxi cab rides, or heck, buy a $7,200 car for every person who wants to go to Billings or Havre and back.

      If anybody needs a ride to Billings or Havre, let me know. I’ll take them there for HALF the going federal rate. I could use $1800 for a day’s work!

      In my experience, most of the flyers in and out of Lewistown are government employees. Why can’t they drive a government car to Billings or Havre? There must be 50 of them at the federal building across the street from Shopko at any given time! The closest thing to “essential” service I have seen is when my blind son was flying back and forth to college in Billings. It was great, but still FAR from being worth the cost to the taxpayers. And now the feds have cut off handicap busing for my son and thousands of other disabled people in Charlotte, which really IS essential! Give me that $1.3 mil and I will put it to good use for people who really need it!

      By the way, two flights in and out per day – morning and afternoon. Pretty convenient schedule. Might as well use it since it is paid for whether we do or not.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. “If anybody needs a ride to Billings or Havre, let me know. I’ll take them there for HALF the going federal rate. I could use $1800 for a day’s work!” – Tom’s Taxi Service! I’m with you on this one, Tom – the EAS is just mind-boggling. You know…I wonder how much it would cost to re-launch passenger train service connecting Montana towns. Bet it would be cheaper overall – and much fairer to taxpayers – than the EAS.

    • Or buses – it’s only two hours to Billings by bus, and by the time you jump through all the hoops, early arrival at the airport and all, it takes that much time to fly.

      I am a big advocate of subsidized (or taxpayer-funded) busing for the elderly and disabled. You know, little buses – cheap and flexible. My blind son had wonderful handicap bus service in Charlotte which allowed him to be independent – until the government took the funding away from the disabled program to spend on a light rail extension that nobody uses or wants: Why do our elected officials have such horrendous judgment?

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  4. From the “Community Eligibility” section at :

    Very recently, Congress passed several significant reforms to the EAS program. On August 5, 2011, the President signed the “Airport and Airway Extension Act, Part IV” (Public Law No: 112-27). That law contained a provision which prohibits the Department from providing EAS to communities whose annual passenger subsidies are greater than $1,000 per passenger, regardless of their distance from the nearest hub airport. Subsequently, the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012” (Public Law No: 112-55, November 18, 2011) waived the requirement that communities receive EAS on 15-seat or larger aircraft.

    On February 14, 2012, the President signed the “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012” (Public Law No. 112-95), which contained several additional reforms. First, the law capped the communities in the 48 states plus Puerto Rico that are eligible to participate in the program. (There were no changes in Alaska or Hawaii.) The law states that only those communities that were receiving subsidized EAS at any time between September 30, 2010, and September 30, 2011, or that received a 90-day notice from their incumbent carrier and the Department held that carrier in, would remain eligible for the program. Therefore, no new communities can enter the program should they lose their unsubsidized service. Secondly, the law requires that in order to remain in the EAS program, beginning with fiscal year 2013, subsidized communities must maintain an average of ten passenger enplanements per service day. The law provides exceptions for communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and for those that are more than 175 driving miles from the nearest large or medium hub airport.

  5. Pingback: Sanity Prevails (for once) – Crazy Airline Subsidy Ends | Rockin' On The Right Side

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