An eager reader points us toward the U.S. Department of Transportation order selecting Aerodynamics Inc. as the subsidized provider of flights from Watertown to Pierre to Denver and back. That order provides data showing that we taxpayers are footing just about 75% of the bill for each flight.
|Roundtrips per service day||2||2|
|Routes per week||12||12|
|Annual adjusted block hours||1,524.69||787.93|
|Annual adjusted departures||1,228||1,228|
|Reservations, stations, administration||1,757,055||846,554|
|Total annual expenses||6,183,611||2,886,992|
|Annual subsidy required||4,524,131||2,268,257|
|Subsidy per departure||3,684||1,847|
|Subsidy per passenger||196||253|
Note that Aerodynamics Inc.’s projections assume that their 50-seat jets will carry an average of 7.3 passengers from Watertown and 18.8 passengers from Pierre. The $83.16 they plan to charge each of those passengers isn’t enough to pay for the fuel those planes will burn, let alone the ownership, maintenance, administration, and advertising costs. Plus, our subsidy covers an industry-standard 5% profit for Aerodynamics Inc.
With fewer passengers flying from Watertown, we taxpayers are paying less per flight but more per passenger from Watertown than from Pierre. Add up the subsidies per departure and multiply by two, and we taxpayers will spend $11,063 to fly each plane from Watertown to Pierre to Denver and back.
Update 10:08 CDT: An eager reader points out that the Watertown Public Opinion responded testily to KSTP’s unfavorable coverage of their new flight subsidy. Freedom Foundation of Minnesota CEO Annette Meeks called the Essential Air Service program’s subsidy of the Watertown–Denver route “another fleecing of the taxpayer.” WPO rebuts, “What the TV report failed to mention is that a large chunk of EAS funding comes from fees paid by foreign airlines for flying over U.S. air space.” True: according to the Congressional Research Service, overflight fee collections made up $108 million of the proposed $283 million in funding for EAS this budget year. Under that proposal, taxpayers would only pick up $175 million, or not quite 62% of the cost of EAS. Thus, the direct taxpayer share of each Watertown–Denver round trip would be $6,841.
But technically, if we weren’t using $4,222 in overflight fee collections (interesting, taxation without representation?) for each EAS-subsidized flight from Watertown, we could use that money for other government expenditures to alleviate our tax burden. So in a way, even those foreign dollars affect the money coming out of our pockets.