Cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107; cost to travelers: $70 to $90 US pays for empty flights to rural airports - Travel - News - msnbc.com By ADRIAN SAINZ, KEVIN BEGOS 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. for the children 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. for the children 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,ya think? but others see it as a critical financial lifeline to ensure economic stability in rural areas. for the children 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. If I had not seen this, I would not beleive it. "They fly the empty plane so they can still get the money," Smith said. Republican: 'Crucial engines of job creation' Rep. David McKinley, a Republican who came into office with tea party support, sided on the issue with Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow West Virginian who has used his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to support the current funding. turns out, they are just as useless. McKinley describes himself "as a small government, free-market focused owner of a small business," but said airports that receive subsidies "serve as crucial engines of job creation for many small towns and rural areas." Gee, can we say make cuts but not in my backyard. In 1999, the EAS served 89 communities 68 in the continental United States, one in Hawaii and 20 in Alaska. Today, it serves 45 in Alaska and 108 elsewhere, and over the last 10 years the budget quadrupled from $50 million to $200 million. Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who helped design the EAS program, said Congress originally intended for the program to end after 10 years. He said the subsidies are a "big problem" in a place like Ely, which averages one or two passengers per flight. No such thing as an program coming to an end. "The real story with this program nationwide is that nobody is watching it," said Smith, the Tennessee airport official. "If there is a problem with airports and airlines not carrying enough passengers and not doing what they said they would do, it's because once the contract is issued, it's like nobody ever asked a question about it again." Airlines, Amtrak, oil, green energy, farms, etc, etc. We are long overdue to end such non-sense.