Monday Insight – April 10, 2023

Rural Air Service Meets Artificial Intelligence In Pennsylvania.

Politicians Are Promising Legislation To Bring Back An Airline System That No Longer Exists.

It seems two congressmen have submitted separate legislation intended to expand and re-open the Essential Air Service program to more airports.

Both represent a simple panacea for rural air service. Immediate solutions. Brilliant suggestions. Completely unfettered by pesky facts or reality. The data, facts and promises are completely, well, artificial.

According to them, just reforming and widening the essential air service program will immediately establish scheduled flights at dozens of small communities. Not only that, but it will generate millions of new passengers and in the process – get this – be a solution to congestion at major airports.

It promises magic. Like most snake oil schemes.

Integrity City Isn’t A Destination of These Bills.  It’s acceptable for elected officials to take action to assist constituents. But that does not give them license to propose legislation without having any knowledge of the subject matter. That’s clearly the case here. These guys are clueless, and they are feeding inept pablum to their constituents.

It’s a new definition of artificial intelligence. And artificial integrity.

Don’t miss the glowing propaganda put out by Congressman Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, the author of one of the bills. It is political malfeasance due to his irresponsible failure to gain any knowledge of the matter before proposing solutions to a problem he has not bothered to understand. It materially misleads the public.

None of the points that the congressman makes in support of his legislation are consistent with reality… none. Take a look:

“For too long, families in rural areas have been forced to travel several hours and 100+ miles to airports in big cities. These bills will not only expand access to air service to millions of Americans, but they will also serve as the answer to the congestion issues at major airports – all while using existing infrastructure. In the wake of COVID, we’ve all experienced the frustrations of an airport past capacity, and the influx of routes and passengers has clearly stretched the FAA’s capabilities to the limits. By opening up additional opportunities for regional airports to expand, it is my hope we can restore commercial flights in Williamsport and make air travel more convenient and stress-free for all Americans. These bills are a win for travelers in Districts like ours and will benefit the economies of rural communities across the country.”   

It is amazing that so much misinformation can be crammed into one long paragraph. Every point made is completely inaccurate. Not just wrong, but several zip codes from reality. Let’s look:

“Rural families forced to travel several hours and 100+ miles…” That’s it, folks. Flat statement. Everybody. Several hours and 100+ miles.

According to this description, the image of the Clampetts driving into Beverly Hills comes to mind when consumers in rural America drive to access air service.

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Message to congress: Consumers are driving – whatever distance – to another airport because in many cases the community cannot support competitive air access at the local airport.

Plus, that drive to a much larger airport would often be far more “travel time-efficient” than the two or three departures at the local airport that the gloriously-expanded new EAS program would hypothetically support.

“These bills will… expand access to air service to millions of Americans…” There is absolutely no truth in this statement. It dishonestly implies that more EAS largess will immediately establish air service, with the further implication that there are airlines immediately ready to pounce. Fake news, guy.

“(More EAS flights) … will serve as the answer to the congestion at major airports…”  Just where does he think these EAS flights will fly into? Cow pastures? There is a need for intellectual responsibility before filing legislation such as this.

Yessir. The snake oil contention is that flights from unserved rural airports will go directly to where consumers want to go, and therefore reduce passengers and congestion at ORD and IAD and CLT. Waiter, check please.

“… influx of routes and passengers (at large airports) has clearly stretched the FAA’s capabilities to the limits… So, this new EAS fantasy service will avoid big airports, and relieve the ATC system, according to these politicians. Embarrassing.

“… By opening up additional opportunities for regional airports to expand, … we can restore commercial flights (in rural America)…”  The assumption is that EAS funding is a leadpipe cinch to attract airlines and air service, which is apparently assumed to be a unitary modality, kind of like running water, or a sewer system. Where it would fly to isn’t an issue. Just have “commercial flights” and all will be well, by-and-by.

See, the goal is only to restore “scheduled flights” at small communities. It makes no difference where it goes, or if it’s connective, or whether it’s anything consumers in the real world would be able to use.

So, Where Are All The Eager Operators? This fantasy legislation is misleading consumers by implying there are airlines with airplanes and the resources that would be flying these markets, if only there were subsidies. Ignorance.

Message To Rural Communities. Irresponsible, soap-box stunts like this only serve to mislead communities and are essentially political malfeasance by posturing “solutions” that don’t exist. It deters small airports from addressing future change.

The economics of scheduled passenger air service are clear. That means regions need to take honest investigation of their specific future. Excursions into political la-la land only mislead the public.

Artificial Intelligence. Artificial results.