UC Berkeley Prof. Questions Gov’t Paying For Empty Flights To Rural Airports

BERKELEY (CBS / AP) — On some days, pilots fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nevada, airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press showed 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.

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 claim should be eliminated from it. Some call the spending a boondoggle, but others see it as a critical financial lifeline in rural areas.

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 place like Ely, which averages one or two passengers per flight.

“I can see the argument for making some of them permanent, but the standards should be higher,” Borenstein said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. Milan Moravec says:

    Californians are boiling mad. University of California Berkeley (Cal) picks the pockets of foreign, out-of-state, Californian students and their parents clean. UC Berkeley shouldn’t come to the Governor or public for support. (The author has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at Cal where he observed the culture, way senior management work)

    University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) has forgotten that he is a public servant, steward of the public money, not overseer of his own fiefdom. These are not isolated examples: Cal tuition, fee increases exceed national average rate of increase; recruits (using California tax $) out of state $50,600 students who displace qualified Californians from Cal; spends $7,000,000 + for consultants to do his senior management work (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same 0 cost); pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; in procuring $3,000,000 consulting firm he failed to receive proposals from others; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010 (M Krupnick Contra Costa Times); ranked # 70 USA best universities Forbes; tuition to Return on Investment drops below top 10; QS academic ranking falls below top 10; only 50 attend Birgeneau all employees meeting; visits down 20%; absence Cal. senior management control NCAA places basketball program on probation.
    It’s all shameful. There is no justification for violations by a steward of the public trust. Absolutely none.
    Birgeneau’s irregularities continue. Governor Brown, UC Board of Regents Chair Lansing must vigorously enforce stringent oversight over Chancellor Birgeneau who uses the Cal. as his fiefdom.

  2. jim heap says:

    IF THE PUBLIC IS PAYING FOR THOSE SEATS THEN I THINIK ANYONE
    WHO SHOWS UP AT THE AIRPORT FOR ONE OF THOSE FLIGHTS SHOULD
    GET A FREE TICKET.. WE ALREADY PAID FOR THE SEAT, WHY NOT PUT
    SOMEONE IN IT.

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