The Essential Air Service program has been good for Jamestown and needs to continue to keep Jamestown Regional Airport viable for commercial passenger service.
The U.S. Department of Transportation funds the Essential Air Service program. Under the program airlines receive a subsidy from the DOT to provide reliable commercial passenger service to rural and small community airports. Jamestown, Devils Lake and Dickinson airports have commercial passenger service because of the Essential Air Service program.
President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 fiscal year budget doesn't include funding the program, which costs about $175 million a year.
If the EAS program goes away, Jamestown Regional Airport will be on its own in attracting an airline to provide commercial passenger service. Under EAS the airport set a new all-time record for paid passenger boardings in 2016 of 11,113. The airport will receive $1 million in entitlement funding from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2018 because it exceeded the 10,000 paid passenger boarding mark in 2016.
A downside to EAS is that it is a federal government subsidy and frequently comes under attack in Congress during budget discussions. The flights between Jamestown and Denver have been in the $222 range round trip in part due to the subsidy SkyWest Airlines receives through EAS. Without the subsidy the roundtrip flight to Denver would be more expensive, assuming SkyWest Airlines would continue to offer its service to Jamestown.
Jamestown Regional Airport has been an EAS airport for many years. Reliable commercial passenger service is necessary for Jamestown to continue to attract innovative businesses. Connie Ova, Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. CEO, has said in the past that the first question she hears from businesses considering locating here is whether Jamestown has reliable commercial passenger service.
For Jamestown to continue to grow, it needs to maintain the level of commercial passenger service the airport is now receiving. Keeping EAS will help the area achieve the goal of sustained growth.
Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper's editorial board.