Friday, May 23, 2008

Airports Grow Quiet...,

Eliminating flights is the latest move by the airlines in a cost-cutting drive that also has led to ticket prices climbing 10 times this year and new fees, from charges for checking extra bags to changing itineraries.

Almost every major carrier, from American Airlines to Delta Air Lines and US Airways, is crossing cities off its list, leaving passengers with fewer choices than a year ago.

Some travelers have no choices, but it is not for lack of trying by city and state officials. After Hagerstown briefly lost its eligibility for a government program called the Essential Air Service last year, Maryland’s Congressional delegation helped win an extension that allowed Hagerstown, as well as Lancaster, Pa., and Brookings, S.D., to remain in the program until Sept. 30.

The Essential Air Service program was created in 1978, when the airline industry was deregulated, to ensure that communities in rural and remote areas would be linked to the nation’s air system.

Under the program, the government provides subsidies of about $100 million a year to the airlines, resulting in service to 102 communities.

But the subsidies have not risen fast enough to cover the jump in jet fuel costs, and passengers have resisted paying higher prices for plane tickets, prompting carriers to pull out of a number of cities, including Hagerstown.