Trump cuts threaten passenger flights at 4 rural Maine airports
TRENTON, Maine — Four small airports in Maine could see a drastic reduction in their passenger flight service if President Trump eliminates a subsidy program that funnels millions of dollars to Maine each year.
The federal Essential Air Service program, the Washington Post reported Thursday, is one of nearly 50 programs that would be shelved should the president’s budget be approved as is.
“If the Essential Air Service program ceased to exist, I think it’s highly unlikely we would have a year-round carrier here,” Brad Madeira, manager of Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, said Thursday.
Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle and Augusta State Airport have passenger flight service contracts that this year are being subsidized with approximately $10 million in total EAS funding.
Federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program is siphoned to individual airlines as a way to incentivize them to do business at smaller, more rural airports. The program was created in the late 1970s, when the industry was more heavily regulated, to allow airlines autonomy to choose which locations to serve. About 110 airports across the country utilize the EAS program.
Cape Air has contracts to serve Augusta, Rockland and Bar Harbor year round. Pen Air has a contract to serve Presque Isle year round and to serve Bar Harbor in the summer, when seasonal traffic to and from Mount Desert Island increases.
The Presque Isle and Bar Harbor airports are served by 33-seat aircrafts. Bar Harbor, the only EAS subsidized airport in the state to offer two airlines, also is served by 9-seat planes.
John Guimond, manager of the Augusta airport, confirmed Thursday that Cape Air, which flies 9-seat planes, receives about $2 million in subsidies for each year of its passenger service contract with the airport, which is due to expire in 2018.
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