The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was implemented in response to the Airline Deregulation Act, passed in 1978. It has been consistently extended at periodic intervals ever since. Presently, the US Congress is once again considering extending the EAS under the FAA Reauthorization Act.

The purpose of the EAS is to ensure that small rural communities (like Laramie) to maintain a minimum level of scheduled commercial aviation service, when such service would not otherwise be profitable.  In Wyoming, there are two airports eligible for assistance under the EAS. Great Lakes Airlines receives an annual subsidy of $1,181,572 for Laramie Regional Airport service, and receives $1,770,336 for Worland Municipal Airport. These rates are set to expire September 30, 2012. The Laramie Regional Airport averages 23.8 passengers per day and is located 145 miles from the nearest large hub (Denver International Airport).      

Jack Skinner, Airport Manager for Laramie Regional Airport, has notified both Wyoming US Senators Enzi and Barasso of his support for continuing EAS on a national basis. Skinner suggested he also supports improving upon the program’s cost effectiveness by scaling back eligibility based on the community’s reasonable driving distance to a major hub airport. Regarding Wyoming’s EAS subsidized airports, Skinner declared, “Laramie and Worland, along with other Wyoming airports, would be in jeopardy of losing their commercial air service without the EAS subsidy program. This would be a devastating blow to these communities in terms of their efforts to keep and attract job-making businesses. In Laramie, the effect would be particularly harmful in that the University of Wyoming, which now has national and international connections, would be isolated.”

 As budget controversies continue to mount in Congress, the Essential Air Service program will most likely be further scrutinized. Whatever outcomes prevail, positive or negative, the impact is sure to be felt close to home.

Contact information for Wyoming’s US Legislators:

The Honorable Michael B. Enzi                                 The Honorable John Barrasso
Toll Free:  888-250-1879                                                       Toll Free: 866-235-0553