Federal government offers nearly $1 million bribe to restore L.A.-Spokane air service

Follow the logic (or lack of logic):

  • The statement from Sen. Cantwell says L.A.is “the second most travelled destination after Seattle and before Portland“.
  • The Federal government will give SIA a nearly $1 million grant that  “would enable the airport to recruit a carrier by offering short-term risk-offsets while the market fully establishes itself“.
  • Previous air service to L.A. died after 2004, when the economy was good, and died again in 2008. No grants were used in 2004 or 2008. And we think in this economy, this service will now fly on its own? Hello?
  • The 2nd most travelled destination needs a bribe but  the other 9 cities below that level do not?  This grant looks like a crony capitalist bribe as the logic in the explanation does not pencil out.

In this economic disaster, why would this air service last any longer than it did when it died in 2004 and died again in 2008? Will something be done fundamentally differently this time to achieve success?

Getting “free money” from the Feds sounds great, but like the more than half a billion spent on the North Corridor Freeway to/from nowhere, this “feel good” grant will likely have a similar outcome of temporary spending that does not produce the ROI we need right now and long term.

About half of all income in this area now comes from government wages, transfer payments, the government’s share of health care payments, plus outright subsidies of lots of stuff. Like this. This is not sustainable.

(Wow – see the comments to the press coverage – 100% of commenters agree this $1 million bribe is nonsense. And then wow again – we subsidize housing for sheriff’s deputies who get half priced housing for $100 down payments. Seems that Spokane is unable to function without massive government subsidies everywhere.)

From the Cantwell press release, there are about 230,000 passengers per year who travel to Southern California, or about 630 per day. That sounds like a lot – but the problem is there are a lot of airports (LAX, Burbank, Ontario, Orange County, Long Beach, San Diego and Santa Barbara up the coast) and not everyone wants to go to the same airport. This means they need to fly smaller jets, which are not as profitable, and end up being priced higher than a one or two transfer flight via Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco or Portland (the news article says that too). The airport has proposed a single flight per day handling around 100 people that will cost more and have fewer flight time options. And will disappear shortly after the subsidy goes away

Tuesday, September 27,2011WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell D-WA announced Spokane International Airport is receiving a $950,000 grant to reestablish much-needed nonstop air service to Southern California, which would boost business and leisure travel between the two regions. The grant is awarded under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program.

Cantwell wrote a letter of support to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in August expressing her strong support for Spokane International Airport’s application.“This is a major step forward for job growth and commerce in the Inland Northwest,” Cantwell said. “Spokane International Airport is a critical regional hub that drives economic growth throughout the Inland Northwest. Southern California can become the second largest passenger destination from Spokane, making the airport a stop for hundreds of thousands of additional travelers every year. Tapping into this new market will help expand local businesses, facilitate tourism and create jobs in Spokane.”Mark Richard, Chairman, Spokane Airport Board and member, Spokane County Board of Commissioners stated, “We are delighted with todays announcement of USDOTs approval of Spokane International Airports Small Communities Grant application in the amount of $950,000 to support new nonstop service to the Los Angeles basin. This is a strategic and integral business and leisure market for our customers from the Spokane/Coeur dAlene Region. Combined, the demand to the five airports that comprise the LA basin is our over 250,000 annual travelers, representing our areas second largest passenger market and the largest destination without nonstop service. We are looking forward to the projects next phase of raising the necessary $200,000 in local matching funds.”

Currently, Spokane air service between Los Angeles and Southern California is completed entirely via connecting flights, yet there is very strong passenger demand for this route. In 2010, nearly 230,000 passengers traveled from Spokane to the Los Angeles basin, making it the second most travelled destination after Seattle and before Portland. Spokane International Airport has had nonstop service to the Los Angeles basin twice before – once in 2004 and more recently in 2008 – but currently the airport does not have a carrier offering this service. The Small Community Air Service Development Grant would enable the airport to recruit a carrier by offering short-term risk-offsets while the market fully establishes itself.

via Maria Cantwell – U.S. Senator from Washington State.

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