Local airports and communities could be hurt by federal budget cuts

P290109_23.23_[03]President Trump’s budget proposal includes cuts to subsidies that incentivize airlines to service small, local airports.

Every two years subsidies are negotiated between the federal government and airlines to cover the cost of servicing smaller airports.

The subsidies are part of the Essential Air Service program which was established in 1978 after airlines were deregulated.

Tami Beseau is the Airport Manager for Chippewa County International Airport in Sault Sainte Marie. She said Delta airline receives a one point nine million dollar subsidy to service their airport.

“A community benefits analysis contracted by the state in 2012 indicated that the airport located in this community generated 35 million dollars worth of economic benefit.”

Beseau said the airport services roughly 45 thousand travelers a year.

Kelley Atkins is the Manager of the Pellston Regional Airport. He said their airport has seen similar returns: their annual subsidy is just over one million dollars and a community benefit analysis in 2013 showed the airport brought roughly 38 million dollars to the community.

“The loss of that money would have devastating effect on our county and the county’s ability to maintain and operate a safe and viable airport.”

Airports say there’s another danger too.

Federal Airport Improvement Program grants provide one million dollars to airports for infrastructure improvements as long as the airports service at least 10-thousand people a year.

That grant is not currently on the Presidential chopping block but Beseau said if airliners aren’t incentivized to service small airports it could have a domino effect.

“If we fall below the 10-thousand enplanements we would not have the money to improve the infrastructure here. Which would continue the trickle down effect where if you don’t have a decent runway what are the chances of being able to get a reliable airline in here.”

Both Beseau and Atkins said it’s too early to know what will happen, but they said they’re already reaching out to their representatives to encourage them to keep federal subsidies intact.