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The New York Times has an interesting story about federal subsidies on virtually unused airline flights today. While we’re all atwitter in San Diego about our 661-acre airport and its sole runway – and while airplanes are more packed than they’ve been since the days of FDR – folks in places like Pueblo, Colo. are flying solo.

Literally.

The NYT’s Jeff Bailey reports:

Hoping for an empty seat beside you on your next flight? No problem – just schedule a trip to someplace like Kingman, Ariz.; Brookings, S.D.; or Pueblo.

They are among more than 100 locales around the country that receive federally subsidized airline service, and the average number of passengers on each flight is about three.

Most of these flights on 19-seat prop planes have plenty of elbow room – a rare luxury in this age of jampacked commercial jets. … The more tranquil cabins come courtesy of the Essential Air Service, put in place when the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. The idea was to help travelers in smaller cities adjust to the new competitive era of air travel. The intention was for the service to go away after 10 years, but it was renewed for a second decade – and then made permanent.

Over time, though, the program has come to seem mostly expensive and, to its critics, unessential.

The story is here.

ROB DAVIS

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